Working with doctors Working for patients

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.

Here are some extra questions we are often asked.

Who can make a request for information?

Anyone can make a request for their 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'll need your written authorisation as proof that they are acting on your behalf.

Also, anyone can request information under the Freedom of Information Act regardless of whether they live in the UK. 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 don't 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?

Please let us know if you have difficulties putting your request in writing. We'll give you advice on alternative options, such as:

  • 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'll respond giving you a refusal notice saying the information is exempt under this legislation. If the information is about you (your 'personal data'), we'll automatically deal with your request under the Data Protection Act instead.

Can I access my health records through the GMC?

We don't usually hold peoples health records, but if we need to look at them as part of our investigation into a complaint about a doctor, we can ask a health authority to send them to us.

In practice, it's often more straightforward for you to ask your healthcare provider for access to your records, or the records of someone your acting on behalf of.

If you ask to see your personal information, and we are holding some of your health records, we must take advice before giving you access. This is because the decision to share the information must be made by an appropriate health professional in case there is information that should be withheld in their medical opinion. We normally ask for advice about releasing the information to you from the health professional who has written the records.

In practice it is usually more straightforward to ask your healthcare provider for access to your health records directly.

Please note that if we're not holding your health records as part of our investigation process, we won't be able to access 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 information about people who have died.

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 to the general public. In most cases, it's 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 ask the relevant healthcare provider, who can make the decision whether to disclose these to you. We're not able to release records under this Act, even if we hold them.