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It was reported earlier this year that some families of deceased relatives lost during the COVID pandemic were encountering difficulties accessing the deceased’s relatives’ medical records. 

Given the lack of contact with their relative prior to death, it is understandable that the family wished to understand what happened to them and the reasons for them passing.  During the height of the pandemic with medical staff and hospitals so stretched, this information or, at least, the detail of what happened was hard to come by.   

There is, of course, an entitlement for the next of kin or the deceased representative to access medical records.  This authority is provided under the Access to Health Records Act 1990 (“The Act”) allowing the representative of the deceased and persons who may have a claim arising out of the death to have access to all medical records. 

The Act allows the hospital a period of 40 days from the date in which a correctly completed form has been received by the Hospital to provide the records. As part of the process, the applicant will need to exhibit appropriate identification to confirm their identity and eligibility to access the records.      

Such an application will normally be for recovery of all the medical records which will include all radiology records including x-rays, MRI/CT scans and ultrasounds.  Often, when this information is sought, the scan information does not come with the rest of the electronic records.  It very much depends upon the hospital to which the application is made concerning the way the records are provided. 

Some hospitals have questioned the authority of the person requesting the records and have demanded yet more documentation to confirm eligibility.   A number of applicants have found the process so difficult and cumbersome that they have required to instruct a solicitor to assist them.   Some Health Boards are not only not adhering to the 40-day disclosure period but are citing COVID issues and stretched resources as the reason why the records will not be available for over a year. 

Whilst it is generally understood that the hospitals have been under intolerable pressure during the COVID pandemic and that such matters as the release of records will be down the agenda, as we move out of the critical period of the pandemic, it is incumbent upon the hospitals to adhere to the 40 day period wherever practicable.  So long as the form has been adequately completed and identification provided then there appears to be no reason now why the hospitals cannot produce the appropriate records.

If you are experiencing any delay in recovering the records or wish access to them, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us and we will be able to discuss the matter on 0800 988 8082 or you can complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will get back to you right away.

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