Expert advice

Legal advice: Can I access a friend’s medical records for them? 

If you access medical records without justifiable reason you could be breaching the Nursing and Midwifery Council code and breaking the law. Avoid it at all costs, advises legal expert Marc Cornock

If you access medical records without justifiable reason you could be breaching the Nursing and Midwifery Council code and breaking the law. Avoid it at all costs, advises legal expert Marc Cornock


Picture: iStock

Accessing a medical record without justifiable reason is something you absolutely must not do. Not only are you in danger of breaching the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) code, you could be charged with a criminal offence.

Access to medical records can only be undertaken for a limited number of reasons. From a nursing perspective, these relate to your need to access the records to perform an aspect of your nursing role.

Medical records are not owned by the person they concern, so although your friend may have given you permission to access their record, this is not justification for doing so. If your friend wants to access their own medical record, they need to make a specific request.

NMC standards on promoting professionalism and trust require you to uphold the reputation of your profession at all times, and your position as a registered nurse or midwife.

Criminal offence

If you accessed your friend’s medical records you could be breaching the Code, and might face an NMC fitness to practise hearing as a result.

You could also be charged with a criminal offence. The law classifies information within a medical record as personal data, and protections are in place to prevent this information from being obtained by those who should not be accessing it.

It is a criminal offence to obtain personal data without lawful reason, and a separate criminal offence to disclose personal data to another person without lawful reason. Both offences are punishable with separate fines. You would also have a criminal record, which could make it difficult to obtain future employment.

Your best course of action is to explain to your friend that you are not able to help with their request, and advise them to contact their GP or other healthcare practitioner to obtain the information they need.


Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at the Open University

 

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs