How do I access my medical records (health records)?

If you want to view your health records, you may not need to make a formal application. Nothing in the law prevents healthcare professionals from informally showing you your own records. You can make an informal request during a consultation, or by phoning your GP surgery or hospital to arrange a time to see your records.

Formal requests under the Data Protection Act

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, you have a legal right to apply for access to health information held about you. This includes your NHS or private health records held by a GP, optician or dentist, or by a hospital.

A health record contains information about your mental and physical health recorded by a healthcare professional as part of your care.

If you want to see your health records, you don't have to give a reason.

Applying for access to your health records

Depending on which health records you want to see, submit your request in writing or by email to:

  • your GP surgery
  • your optician
  • your dentist
  • the hospital trust's health records manager or patient services manager

This is known as a Subject Access Request (SAR).

It's a good idea to state the dates of the records when you apply.

The health records manager, GP or other healthcare professional will decide whether your request can be approved. They can refuse your request if, for example, they believe that releasing the information may cause serious harm to your physical or mental health or that of another person.

Under the Data Protection Act, requests for access to records should be met within 40 days. However, government guidance for healthcare organisations says they should aim to respond within 21 days. 

Fees to access your health records

You may have to pay a fee to access your health records, so ask if there is a charge before you apply to see them.

For more information, see What are the fees for accessing medical records (health records)?

Can someone else access my health records?

Another person can only access your health records if you authorise them to do so. For more information, see Can I access someone else’s health records?

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 02/07/2012

Next review due: 02/07/2014