Health records

Health records contain information about your health and any care or treatment you've received.

Your health records may contain:

  • test and scan results
  • X-rays
  • doctors notes
  • letters to and from NHS staff

It’s important that your records are kept up to date. You should tell NHS staff when your personal information changes or if you are going to be out of the UK for a long time.

How health records are stored

Different parts of the NHS hold records. For example, your GP surgery and any hospital you have been to may hold records about you.

The NHS has guidelines about how long it should keep health records, after which they can be destroyed.

You should contact your GP practice manager or hospital health records manager if you would like more information about how your records are stored.

Emergency health records

Most patients in Scotland now have an Emergency Care Summary containing basic information about your health in case of an emergency.

NHS staff can also use your Emergency Care Summary if your GP refers you to an outpatient clinic or for admission to hospital to check your details.

Before any member of staff looks at your Emergency Care Summary, they must get your consent. If you are too unwell to give consent, they may need to read your Emergency Care Summary without your agreement in order to give you the best possible care.

The Scottish Government provide more information about the Emergency Care Summary in the leaflet – Your Emergency Care Summary – What does it mean to you?

Specialist health records

Patients with particular needs or living with long-term conditions may also have a Key Information Summary containing information that NHS staff should know.

The Key Information Summary might contain:

  • an emergency contact
  • information about a patients condition
  • what treatment the patient is having

If you need a Key Information Summary, your GP will discuss with you what information should be included.

Accessing your health records

You have a right to see or get a copy of your health records.

How to see your records

To see your records you will have to apply to the organisation that is responsible for them, for example:

  • ​your GP practice manager
  • your dental surgery manager
  • the records manager at your hospital

You don't need to give a reason for wanting to see your health records.

When writing, you should say if you:

  • ​want to just see your records or also have a copy 
  • want all or just part of your records
  • would like to get your records in a format that meets your needs

You may also need to fill in an application form and give proof of your identity.

Who can apply?

You can usually apply if you're able to understand what is involved in asking to see your records.

Someone else can apply to see your records if you:

  • agree to this
  • can’t make decisions for yourself and someone has been appointed to act on your behalf

Find out more about making decisions.

Young people

Someone with responsibility for you can apply to see your records if any of the following apply:

  • you're over 13 and you agree to this
  • you don’t understand what's involved

If you're under 13, your parents or guardians must apply to see your records on your behalf.

How much does it cost to view or get copies of your records?

​It is free to:

  • ​view your records
  • request the first copy

If you request additional copies, you will be told if an admin fee will apply.

If you make the request by email or online, unless otherwise requested by you, the information will be provided in a similar secure format.

How long will it take

You will usually receive your records within 30 days of making an application and paying the admin fee if applicable.

Unhappy with your application

If you are unhappy with how your application has been dealt with, you should ask to speak to the person you sent your request to.

If you are still unhappy, you have a right to make a complaint.

Find out about giving feedback and making complaints about how your application has been dealt with.

Viewing your health records

If you choose to view your records at your GP surgery or hospital, someone will probably be with you while you do this.

If you choose to be given a copy, you may get

  • a computer printout
  • a photocopy
  • an electronic file

Discretion

Some information on your records may be kept from you. NHS staff don't have to tell you if this has happened.

You won’t be able to see information that could:

  • cause serious harm to your own or someone else's physical or mental health
  • identify another person (except NHS staff who have treated you), unless that person gives permission

Incorrect information

If you think information in your records is incorrect, you should first talk to staff providing your care who will then decide the best course of action.

If they decide the information is incorrect:

  • A line will be put through it so that people can still read it but can see that it has been corrected
  • A note will be attached to your records explaining why this has been done

If they decide the information is correct:

  • Your records will not be changed
  • A note can be attached to your records explaining why you think the information is incorrect

Removal of information

Information can only be removed from your records if:

  • a court orders it
  • the Information Commissioner's Office requests it
  • the conditions for 'the right to be forgotten' apply

NHS staff need your full records to:

  • understand earlier decisions made about your care
  • comply with legal and professional obligations

The right to be forgotten

You may want to approach NHS Scotland to request that your information is removed from their records if you feel that:

  • your information is no longer necessary
  • your information has been unlawfully used
  • your information is held without legal basis and you haven't given consent
  • the personal information has been collected online by services offered directly to children

There may be occasions when the NHS will not uphold your request, for example:

  • when there is a legal obligation for keeping the information
  • when the NHS needs the information to carry out its duties in the public interest such as planning healthcare services
  • for public health reasons

The NHS must reply to your request within 30 days.

Compensation

You can claim compensation if you suffer physical, psychiatric, or financial damage because:

  • information in your records is inaccurate
  • your information is accidentally lost, damaged or destroyed, or disclosed without permission

Find out more about clinical negligence and your right to feedback and complain about your care.

Deceased records

The law allows you to see records of a patient that has died as long as they were made after 1st November 1991.

Records are usually only kept for three years after death.

Who can access deceased records?

You can only see that person’s records if you are their personal representative, administrator or executor.

You won’t be able to see the records of someone who made it clear that they didn’t want other people to see their records after their death.

Accessing deceased records

Before you get access to these records, you may be asked for:

  • proof of your identity
  • proof of your relationship to the person who has died

Viewing deceased records

You won’t be able to see information that could:

  • cause serious harm to your or someone else's physical or mental health
  • identify another person (except members of NHS staff who have treated the patient), unless that person gives their permission

If you have a claim as a result of that person’s death, you can only see information that is relevant to the claim.

How to See Your Health Records (Factsheet)

This information is also available as a factsheet, which has been translated into different languages and formats - including audio, BSL, large print and easy-to-read.

Print-ready versions for professionals are also available.

Download a factsheet