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Your health and care records

What is meant by health record?

Health records

Wherever you visit an NHS service a record is created for you. This means medical information about you can be held in various places, including your GP practice, any hospital where you’ve had treatment, your dentist practice, and so on.


Since April 2015 all GPs should offer their patients online access to summary information of their GP records. To find out more about how to access medical records online or in paper see the section How to access your health records.

A health record (sometime referred to as medical record) should contain all the clinical information about the care you received. This is important so every health professional involved at different stages of your care has access to your medical history such as allergies, operations or tests. Based on this information, the health professional can make judgements about your care going forward. Find out more about different types of records.

Your health records should include everything to do with your care including x-rays or discharge notes. The data in your records can include:

  • treatments received or ongoing
  • information about allergies
  • your medicines
  • any reactions to medications in the past
  • any known long-term conditions, such as diabetes or asthma
  • medical test results such as blood tests, allergy tests and other screenings
  • any lifestyle information that may be clinically relevant, such smoking, alcohol or weight 
  • personal data, such as your age, name and address
  • consultation notes, which your doctor takes during an appointment
  • hospital admission records, including the reason you were admitted to hospital
  • hospital discharge records, which will include the results of treatment and whether any follow-up appointments or care are required
  • X-rays
  • photographs and image slides, such as those produced by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerised tomography (CT) scanner

Find out how long medical records are kept for

Types of health record

What is a Summary Care Record?

All the settings where you receive healthcare keep their own medical records about you. These places can often only share information from your records by letter, fax or phone. At times this delays information sharing which can affect decision making and slow down treatment. To help improve the sharing of important information about you, the NHS in England is using an electronic record called the Summary Care Record.

Your Summary Care Record contains important information from the record held by your GP practice and includes details of any medicines you are taking, any allergies you suffer from and any bad reactions to medicines that you have previously experienced. Your Summary Care Record also includes your name, address, date of birth and your unique NHS Number to help identify you correctly.

TipYou may want your GP to add other details about your care to your Summary Care Record. This will only happen if both you and your GP agree to do this. You should discuss your wishes with your GP practice.

Allowing authorised healthcare staff to have access to this information helps to improve decision making by doctors and other healthcare staff and has prevented mistakes being made when patients are being cared for in an emergency or when their GP practice is closed.

Access to your Summary Care Record is strictly controlled. The only people who can see the information is the healthcare team currently in charge of your care. They can only access your records via a special smartcard and access number (like a chip-and-pin card). Healthcare staff will ask your permission every time they need to look at your Summary Care Record. If they cannot ask you, e.g. because you're unconscious, healthcare staff may look at your record without asking you. If they have to do this the decision will be recorded and checked to ensure that the access was appropriate.

You can choose to opt out of having a Summary Care Record at any time. In that case, you need to let your GP practice know by filling in an opt-out form (PDF, 245.9kb). If you are unsure if you have already opted out you should talk to the staff at your GP practice. If you change your mind again simply ask your GP to create a new Summary Care Record for you.

What is meant by an Integrated Digital Record?

On a local level some Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have started to integrate patients’ health and social care records to improve the overall care they provide in their area and to ensure more joined up care is given to patients. This is called Integrated Digital records. Camden is one of the first CCG areas to introduce this. Find out more on the Camden’s CCG website

Other CCGs may offer similar schemes or entirely different ones. Visit your CCG's website or contact the CCG directly for more information.

Sharing data from your records across the NHS

Health and social care records can be used to improve social care, public health and the services provided by the NHS. Your health records can also be used:

  • to determine how well a particular hospital or specialist unit is performing
  • to track the spread of, or risk factors for, a particular disease (epidemiology)
  • in clinical research, to determine whether certain treatments are more effective than others

When health records are used in this way, your personal details are not given to the people who are carrying out the research. Only the relevant clinical data is given, for example the number of people who were admitted to hospital every year due to a heart attack.

TipBesides the data collected by hospitals the NHS has also started to collect similar information, at a local level, from GP practices to better plan services for patients. In the future this will expand to information about care provided in communities and care homes. You can find more detailed information about data sharing in the section The programme.


There are strict laws and regulations to ensure your health records are kept confidential and can only be accessed by health professionals directly involved in your care. There are a number of different laws that relate to health records. The two most important laws are:

Under the terms of the Data Protection Act (1998), organisations such as the NHS must ensure that any personal information it gathers in the course of its work is:

  • only used for the stated purpose of gathering the information (which in this case would be to ensure that you receive a good standard of healthcare)
  • kept secure

It is a criminal offence to breach the Data Protection Act (1998) and doing so can result in imprisonment.

The Human Rights Act (1998) also states that everyone has the right to have their private life respected. This includes the right to keep your health records confidential.


The 10 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Jason1990 said on 18 October 2015

Good evening , I have a strong suspision that a member of your nhs staff has misused there confidentiality and personal al records and looked up information regarding my wife and her brother ,how do I go about getting this sorted and the correct discipline put in place

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Ali_m said on 03 October 2015

Please could someone answer:

Do non elective admissions to A&E/walk in centres show on your records?

Thank you

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rickt42uk said on 14 April 2015

I think it is utterly disgusting and I think it should be made a human right to have this record destroyed. What a sick invasion of privacy. I wish I could simply have any data held by the NHS and their past appalling treatment of me expunged. Preferably by burning it in front of me.

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Eve Olv said on 06 December 2014

The Police and Immigration service also have access to this data via the National Back Office service - search NBO on the HSCIC website for details of the volume of releases to government agencies (but no details are available for the reasons). No patient consent is ever given for these releases.

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Ocra Bride said on 08 June 2014

Secondary function of health records is wide ranging and is not detailed enough in this article. It could include permissions for information collected direct from the GP surgery and without explicit consent. For example, The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) could link health research to getting back to work and seek records for this research. The article also avoids setting out when information will be shared without consent and detail all the instances already in place under statute law, such as cancer registers. Some opt outs are available currently although most have no weight of law behind them they are simply allowed currently by the Secretary of State. Many vulnerable and not so vulnerable patients do not provide all information to their health care provider in fear of the data being taken, copied and used without consent. The protections are too weak and the NHS should empower all patients to have full control of their information and seek consent to share.

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iaintw said on 03 March 2014

If the gp is closed you have to go to hospital GP services and walk in centres and the reception asked you your name, address and your doctor surgey notes to their gp services so the doctor will have a look at your summary of your health. which tablets or meds that the doctor they presible to you

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Brian Steedman said on 21 February 2014

In common with a great many other people, I am entirely opposed to the creeping privatisation of the National Health Service. Every day a service provided by a public body is replaced by a serviced operated by a private company for profit.

Profit, if generated within a public health service goes back into the system and promotes its growth. Private systems generate profit for shareholders at the expense of patients and workers within the service. Wages in private set-ups are reduced to enhance profits, especially in the case of low paid workers.

If public health services are unsuccessful or unacceptable this is because government neither funds or organises it effectively.

I will not, therefore hand my private records to a service which will make them available to private companies enabling them to bid to undercut public services. This situation can be changed by the government agreeing not to make such data available to private companies. It would also help if they could actually be honest about what they are doing, but why would any Tory want to be honest?

I believe that a majority of people in Britain do not want private health companies to take over the running of our National Health Service.

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eurisko said on 15 February 2014

I have worked for the NHS and have been party to many breaches by a variety of Trusts over the years that causes me total reservation over this course of action. I, personally, have opted out as my GP and I agree that the existing system before implementation of computerisation has assisted personal care in hospital over the years well.

I read that the data will be anonymised with a DoB and address and I fail to see this as anonymised data. If the database is breached in anyway any company can cross-reference this information against the electoral roll (which is sold by councils) to make a pretty good determination of who the person(s) is/are.

With GCHQ and NSA intrusion the willingness of people walking straight into a risk of their personal data being lost - accidentally or maliciously is too great. If this data ever escapes into the wild, insurance companies will be able to access it and transparently or not could risk assess policies against it. Additionally where DNA information is included this could impact on future generations as their lineage and therefore previous family illnesses will be traceable.

This intrusion into personal privacy with very little publicity (the letter sent to everyone in England could easily be classed as junk mail). You also don't provide an online opt-out so kit requires a personal vista or posted letter to the GP in order to do so. You have made it difficult to say no and haven't publicised it very well.

Also it's reported that this information will be made available to selected 3rd parties. This increases the risk profile at the data being insecure.

This is a terrible idea and until there are satisfactory technical solutions that will prevent data being lost, it is far too soon to be doing this. In fact it could be the biggest error in judgment ever made.

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Goldilocks said on 19 January 2014

I think this is a marvellous idea and know only too well the problems not being able to access a patients note can cause My mother was very ill with cancer and it was a nightmare gaining access to her long term illness changing areas and staff changes in August, It was a stressful and very traumatic experience for all concerned.

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Don in Winch said on 17 September 2013

Today, 16th September 2014, I received a letter and leaflet (47016 English September 2012) introducing me to the 'fact' that NHS Summary Care Records will be put in place (for me) in the next 12 months.

Since my medical records contain incorrect information (established by my asking for a copy), I am concerned to see whatever records are produced and retained concerning me.

I cannot find any reference in the recent communication concerning access to 'my' information - which surely must be available - ref: Freedom of Information Act.

So, I followed the links for 'Where can I get more information', detailed in the leaflet - which I am told to keep for reference, with the following rather disturbing results . . . (see below)

'PALS online is no longer operational

This site’s content was provided by the efforts of unpaid contributors....'

'NHS Connecting for Health ceased to exist on 31st March 2013. This website is therefore not being updated. For up to date information about systems and services visit the Health and Social Care Information Centre website'

Will up to date information ever be distributed?
Will Freedom of Information be respected?

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Page last reviewed: 07/04/2015

Next review due: 07/04/2017

Keeping your online health and social care records safe and secure

Guidance is available to help you understand what an electronic health and care record is, how you can access it, who you may want to share it with and how to perform these actions securely. This guidance was created by the Department of Health, working in collaboration with BCS, the Chartered Institute of IT, in 2013.

Download the patient guidance booklets:

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