From November, you have the right to see all medical records maintained about you, including what used to be classified as confidential doctor’s notes.
The new Access to Health Records Act will extend your rights to see handwritten medical records. Under the Data Protection Act, you already have the right to read anything about you maintained on computer.
The catch is that the new law will not apply to records maintained before the act was put into effect, on the grounds that it would be uncomfortable for doctors to open files they previously expected to be confidential.
The only other hitch is that doctors have the right to withhold this information from you if they believe it would cause serious harm to your physical or mental health. Junior Health Minister Stephen Dorrell, who announced the new act, cited as an example information indicating that a patient had a terminal illness before the patient had been notified.
You will nevertheless have the right to go to court to force disclosure of your records if you believe that information is wrongly being withheld from you.
Access to your records will, in most cases, be free.