Frequently asked questions
You can find most of the facts about making a request for information, how much it costs and exemptions under the Data Protection and Freedom of Information sections. However here are some extra questions we are often asked.
Who can make a request for information?
Anyone can make a request for his or her own personal information under the Data Protection Act. If you want someone else to apply for your personal information for you, such as a solicitor or other representative, we will need proof that they are acting on your behalf in the form of written authorisation.
Also anyone can request information under the FOI Act regardless of age, location or nationality. The Act is “applicant blind” which means it doesn’t take into account who you are in order to decide whether the information should be disclosed.
Do I need to give a reason to see the information I am requesting?
No you do not have to give a reason why you want to see the information. However we might ask you some questions to help us understand exactly what it is you want us to provide.
How can I make a request for information if I have a disability or have writing difficulties?
If you have difficulties putting your request in writing then please let us know. We will give you advice on alternative options which may include:
- taking a note over the telephone and then getting confirmation from you that it is an accurate description of what you want
- giving you the contact details of agencies that can help, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Can I ask for my personal information under the Freedom of Information Act?
No, requests for personal information are exempt under the Freedom of Information Act. We will respond giving you a refusal notice saying the information is exempt under this legislation and we will automatically deal with your request under the Data Protection Act instead.
Can I access my health records through the GMC?
Normally we do not hold peoples health records but if we need to look at them as part of our investigation into a fitness to practise complaint, we can ask a health authority to send them to us using our statutory powers.
If you make a request to see your personal information and we are holding some of your health records, we must take advice before granting access to you. This is because the decision to disclose must be made by an appropriate health professional in case there is information that should be withheld in their medical opinion. We normally approach the health professional who has written the record to advise us about the release of the information to you.
In practice it is usually more straightforward to ask your healthcare provider for access to your health records directly.
Please note that if we are not holding your health records as part of our investigation process, we are unable to acquire them on your behalf.
Can I get information about deceased people?
The Data Protection Act only covers living individuals so there are no subject access rights to deceased people’s information.
You can request any recorded information under the Freedom of Information Act. However the Act is applicant blind so we must consider whether the information is suitable for release not only to you, but also the general public at large. In most cases it is likely that information requests about deceased people will be considered exempt under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Access to Health Records Act 1990 gives limited statutory rights of access to the health records of deceased people to certain categories of people. If you want to apply for access to a deceased person’s health record through this Act you need to approach the relevant health professional or healthcare provider who can make the decision whether to disclose these to you.