Medical records, physical and mental health, remain confidential after death and
coroners are only entitled to request medical information that is relevant and necessary
to their enquiries. It is not clear whether post mortem and special examination reports
are part of a medical record, but they are generally not regarded as such.
The Access to Health Records Act 1990 gives parents and next of kin, or their personal
representative, the right to have copies of the medical records of a child or adult
who has died. Hospitals or doctors must supply the copies within 21 or 40 days from
the date of your application, depending on how recent the record is. You can only
be charged for the cost of making the copies and by applying for the records yourself,
you will avoid being charged for a solicitor’s time in making the application for
You do not have to wait until an inquest is completed and you should make the application
as soon as possible. There may be reluctance to provide the records, or delay in
doing so and when you do get them, you should check carefully for date continuity
and possible amendments.
The Patients Association publishes a guide “How to obtain access to your Medical
Records”. If you find it difficult to make an application, the Patients Association
(Section 26 and 28) or Citizens Advice Bureau (Section 28) can help you.
13 Not applicable to Northern Ireland, but The Access to Health Records (NI)
Order 1993 makes similar provision for a personal representative to
access the medical records of a person who has died.