GDPR and Subject Access Requests (SAR)
Under the Data Protection Act (DPA), the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and (for deceased individuals) the Access to Health Records Act 1990, you have a legal right to apply for access to health information held about you. This includes your NHS records held by a GP.
A health record contains information about your mental and physical health recorded by a healthcare professional as part of your care.
Who can make an Access Request?
An application for access to personal data may be made to the Practice by any of the following:-
- an individual
- a person authorised by the individual in writing to make the application on an individual’s behalf e.g. solicitor, family member, carer
- a person having parental responsibility for the individual where he/she is a child.
- person appointed by a court to manage the affairs of an individual who is deemed incompetent
- individuals who hold a health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney
- where the individual has died, the personal representative and any person who may have a claim arising out of the individual’s death (the executor of the deceased’s will; someone who has been appointed as an Administrator of the Estate by the Courts; someone who has the written consent of either of the above to be given access, someone who is in the process of challenging the deceased’s will)
The Police may, on occasion, request access to personal data of individuals. Whilst there is an exemption in the Data Protection Act which permits the Practice to disclose information to support the prevention and detection of crime, the Police have no automatic right to access; however they can obtain a Court Order.
Parental responsibility for a child is defined in the Children’s Act 1989 as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority, which by law a parent of a child has in relation to a child and his property’. Although not defined specifically, responsibilities would include safeguarding and promoting a child’s health, development and welfare, including if relevant their employment records. Included in the parental rights which would fulfil the parental responsibilities above are:
- having the child live with the person with responsibility, or having a say in where the child lives;
- if the child is not living with her/him, having a personal relationship and regular contact with the child;
- controlling, guiding and directing the child’s upbringing.
Foster parents are not ordinarily awarded parental responsibility for a child. It is more likely that this responsibility rests with the child’s social worker and appropriate evidence of identity should be sought in the usual way.
The law regards young people aged 16 or 17 to be adults for the purposes of consent to treatment and the right to confidentiality. Therefore, if a 16 year old wishes a medical practitioner to keep their information confidential then that wish must be respected. In some certain cases, children under the age of 16 who have the capacity and understanding to take decisions about their own treatment are also entitled to decide whether personal information may be passed on and generally to have their confidence respected.
Where a child is considered capable of making decisions, e.g. about his/her employment or medical treatment, the consent of the child must be sought before a person with parental responsibility may be given access. Where, in the view of the appropriate professional, the child is not capable of understanding the nature of the application, the holder of the record is entitled to deny access if it is not felt to be in the patient’s best interests.
The identity and consent of the applicant must always be established.
The applicant does not have to give a reason for applying for access.
The Practice is a Data Controller and can only provide information held by the organisation. Data controllers in their own right must be applied to directly, the Practice will not transfer requests from one organisation to another.
Individuals wishing to exercise their right of access should:
- Make a written application to the Practice holding the records, including via email
- Provide such further information as the Practice may require to sufficiently identify the individual and process the request
Forms are available from reception staff or click here to download the application form, please return the completed form to the practice.
Fees and Response Time
Under GDPR the Practice musts provide information free of charge. However, we can charge a “reasonable fee” when a request is manifestly unfounded or excessive, particularly if it is repetitive.
The fee must be based on the administrative cost of providing the information only.
The request should be initially passed to the Data Protection Officer (Information Governance Lead) who will manage Subject Access Request.
The request must be complied with without delay and at least within one calendar month of receipt of the request. This period can be extended for a further two months where requests are complex or numerous, however the Practice must inform the individual within one month of receipt of the request and explain why the extension is necessary.
The identity of an individual who provided/recorded information should not be disclosed, nor should the identity of any other person/s referred to in the record(s) of the individual requesting access, unless explicit consent has been given.
Access may be denied or restricted where:
The record contains information which relates to or identifies a third party that is not a care professional and has not consented to the disclosure. If possible, the individual should be provided with access to that part of the record which does not contain the third party information
- Access to all or part of the record will prejudice the carrying out of social work by reason of the fact that serious harm to the physical or mental well-being of the individual or any other person is likely. If possible the individual should be provided with access to that part of the record that does not post the risk of serious harm
- Access to all or part of the record will seriously harm the physical or mental well-being of the individual or any other person. If possible the individual should be provided with access to that part of the record that does not pose the risk of serious harm
- If an assessment identifies that to comply with a SAR would involve disproportionate effort under section 8(2)(a) of the Data Protection Act
There is no requirement to disclose to the applicant the fact that certain information may have been withheld.
In addition, Article 23 of the GDPR enables Members States, such as the United Kingdom to introduce further exemptions from the GDPR’s transparency obligations and individual rights. The Data Protection Officer can provide further information regarding exemptions applicable at the time of receipt of the subject access request.
Complaints and Appeals
The applicant has the right to appeal against the decision of the Practice to refuse access to their information. This appeal should be made to the Practice Manager.
If an applicant is unhappy with the outcome of their access request, the following complaints channels should be offered:
- meet with the applicant to resolve the complaint locally
- Advise a patient to make a complaint through the complaint’s process
- Advise a member of staff to consult with their trade union representative
If individuals remain unhappy with the Practice response, they have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office: https://www.ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us.
Information Commissioner’s Office
Telephone: 0303 123 1113