The Access to Personal Files and Medical Reports (Northern Ireland) Order 1991

The aim of the Order is to allow individuals to see medical reports written about them, for employment or insurance purposes, by a doctor who they usually see in a ‘normal’ doctor/patient capacity. This right can be exercised either before or after the report is sent.

The Order

The patient may view the report by obtaining a photocopy, or by attending the organisation to read the report without taking a copy away.

The patient has a right to view the report from the time it is written and has a window of opportunity to do so before the report is supplied, or he/she may view it after supply for up to six months.

However, in certain circumstances the patient may be prohibited from viewing all or part of the report if:

  • in the opinion of the doctor, viewing the report may cause serious harm to the physical or mental health of the patient or others
  • access to the report would disclose information concerning the identity of a third party where that third party has not consented to the disclosure

The patient retains the right to withdraw consent to the report’s preparation and/or supply at any time.

Therefore, if the patient is unable to view any of the report due to one of the circumstances listed above, he/she can refuse to allow it to be supplied.

If a patient disagrees with the content of the report, he/she has several options.

He/she can:

  • refuse to allow its supply
  • ask the doctor to correct agreed inaccuracies
  • have a note added addressing the point(s) of disagreement

The Access to Personal Files and Medical Reports (Northern Ireland) Order 1991

Records management considerations

It is important that these reports remain accessible to the patient for at least six months after they have been supplied to the employer or insurer.

After six months, organisations should consider whether retention is necessary; however, if they do decide to retain the report it must be accessible should a subsequent subject access request be made. 

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