National Health Service (NHS) – Patient records
The NHS may hold records of patients' medical treatment, including details of your address at the time when you were in care. Different parts of the NHS hold records. For example, your GP surgery where you are currently registered should have records about you and any hospital you have attended may hold records about you.
Similar to other organisations, the NHS has guidelines about how long it should keep health records, after which they can be destroyed. These rules have changed over time so whether or not a record is available will depend on what you are asking for and when it might have been created.
Please note that how you get information and how long it takes will vary depending on availability and the type of information that you are asking for. For example, proof of address for the purpose of applying to the Advance Payment Scheme is likely more straightforward than asking for more detailed information held in your records about your personal circumstances and background. When a patient requests access to a medical record, it is subject to a clinical review and finding the relevant detail could take a long time depending on the amount and complexity of the records. To ensure a clinical review happens, the request should be made to the current or last GP practice where the patient was registered.
To see your records you will have to apply to the organisation that is responsible for them, for example:
- Your current GP practice manager: GP records in Scotland tend to be kept for the lifetime of patient up until three years after their death. This is kept at the GP Practice where you are currently registered. GP records from other parts of the UK or other countries are not normally transferred to Scotland when you move to Scotland. Please note that the NHS was formed in 1948 and unique patient identity numbers (CHI numbers) were developed across the 1970s and 80s in Scotland and only fully established in the 1990's to enable records to be tracked. Therefore, there may be gaps in your registration history or gaps in some earlier patient records if you have moved GP practice since childhood. In the past, a gap in a patient's registration history may have led records to be destroyed. GP records might confirm your childhood address as being in care, or if you later disclosed that you were in care to your GP there may be an entry in your medical records. The practice manager in the GP surgery where you are currently or were last registered should be contacted to see what information they hold about you.
- If you are no longer registered with a GP practice and it is not possible for your last GP Practice to complete the request for information (for example, if the GP Practice has closed and no longer exists or you have been under the care of hospital for a prolonged period of time), you can issue a subject access request to NHS NSS Practitioner Services to access your medical records:
Address: NHS NSS Practitioner Services, Gyle Square, 1 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9EB
Phone: 0131 275 6000
- The relevant NHS Board Records Department. The minimum time that hospital records are kept depends on which health department was accessed. Each hospital has their own health records department and they should be contacted to find out about your health records
If you are unsure about accessing your health records or what information you might gain from health records, please contact the Advance Payment Team to discuss your particular circumstances.