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Hot topic

Parental access for under 16’s online medical records is a hot topic on the phones. We have received more than 800 calls from GPs seeking advice in this area in the last five years. Here’s our quick guide…

The issue

The Information Commissioner’s Office states that parents can make subject access requests on behalf of their children who are too young to make their own request.

A young person aged 12 or above is generally considered mature enough to understand what a subject access request is; however, each case must be judged on its own merits. They can make their own request and would need to provide their consent to allow their parents to make the request for them.

The law states that the mother of the child has parental responsibility and, therefore, has a right of access to their records. However, a partner’s access to a child’s records can be less straightforward.

Your role

You must use your judgment to decide whether a young person aged 12 or above is mature enough to make their own request, as they do not always have the maturity to do so.

Remember any parental access to a child’s records must be in the child’s best interests.

Where it gets complicated

Fathers with parental responsibility may exercise a child’s right to make a subject access request.
In some cases you might consider that it would be in the child’s best interests to allow the father access to the notes even if he does not have parental responsibility. If the child’s parents are divorced or separated, parental responsibility is not affected. However, if this is the case, although there is no absolute obligation to do so, you may wish to consider informing the other parent that an application for access has been made, so that they can seek their own advice.

Remember

The interests of the child are paramount. It is vital that GPs do not become embroiled in any family disputes, although this can be especially difficult when both parents are patients at the practice. In most cases the request for access is well-intentioned and reasonable, but it is important that all requests for access to a child’s records are dealt with fairly and in line with the relevant professional guidance and legislation.

For more advice read our factsheets

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