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This document can be used by a parent or guardian of a child to make a formal request to a healthcare organisation (such as a GP surgery) for the disclosure of health information in relation to that child. This document should be used where the parent or guardian holds Parental Responsibility in relation to the child. This document is for use where the parties are living in England and Wales and where the child is of a young age (under the age of 12).
A parent may wish to request health records or medical information for a number of reasons. Where the parents of a child have separated, the non-resident parent (the parent with whom the child does not live) may wish to obtain medical information or full health records in relation to a child in circumstances where the resident parent (the parent with whom the child lives) is failing to communicate relevant health information to the non-resident parent. In other circumstances, a parent, both parents or a child's guardian may simply wish to obtain health records in order to clarify details in relation to the health of the child.
An adult may wish to obtain their own health records, and where this is the case they should do so by making their own subject access request.
Parental Responsibility is a legal term which means "all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property by law". Included within this is the right, subject to certain provisions, to have access to information about a child's health. Parental Responsibility is obtained at birth by the biological birth mother.
Parental Responsibility is obtained at birth by the biological father if he was married to or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of birth. Where a father is not married or in a civil partnership at the time of the child's birth, he will hold Parental Responsibility if:
Where a child is conceived through fertility treatment, it is possible for the child to have two female parents with Parental Responsibility. The 'second mother' will obtain Parental Responsibility automatically if she is married or in a civil partnership at the time of the treatment and consented to it. If the parties are not married or in a civil partnership, provided that both parents consented at the time of the treatment, the second mother will hold Parental Responsibility if:
In some circumstances, Parental Responsibility can be obtained by non-parents through court order (for example a grandparent may obtain Parental Responsibility through a court order where they are the child's primary carer) or by appointment in a Will as a Guardian. Parental Responsibility can also be obtained by a child's step-parent through a Parental Responsibility agreement.
Age of the child
This document is designed for use when a child is of a young age and is not capable of making the request on their own. This is because, when a child is mature enough and competent to make their own decisions about medical treatment, there are entitled to confidentiality in respect of the medical information.
Where the child is aged 16 or over is presumed to be capable and competent and therefore can make disclosure requests on their own. Where the child is aged 12 or over, they will generally be considered mature enough to make such requests. Where either circumstance applies, a parent can still make a request for medical information, but this should be done with the child's explicit consent.
It is also important to note that a child under the age of 12 may still be considered mature enough to make the request independently. Prior to sending the request, the sender should consider whether this may be a possibility. This type of request is therefore most appropriate where there is no ambiguity in respect of the child's inability to make their own decisions regarding the request. For example, where the request concerns a very young non-verbal child who is aged one, there will be no doubt regarding the appropriateness of the request.
How to use this document
The document should be completed with accurate information in respect of the parent or guardian and the child. In most circumstances, the sender's authority to make the request should be evidenced. This means that proof of the sender's Parental Responsibility should be attached. Examples of documents which may be used to evidence a person's Parental Responsibility may include a copy of a birth, marriage or adoption certificate.
Proof of identity of the sender and the child should also be attached. A medical organisation may refuse to process a disclosure request where they are unable to verify the identity of the person making the request or the identity person in relation to whom the health data concerns (in this case, the child). Examples of documents which may be used as proof of identity include a copy of a passport, birth certificate or driving licence.
Once completed, the letter should be signed. Copies of the relevant identity documents and the signed letter can be sent in hard format via post. Many organisations may also accept these types of requests via email. Where this is the case, an electronic copy of the letter (with an electronic signature) and copies of the relevant identity documents can be attached to an email.
Under data protection laws, the recipient should respond to the request within one calendar month of receipt of the request. This type of request should not attract a fee unless it is considered to be excessive, which would not ordinarily be the case for a simple request for medical information.
Requests for the disclosure of personal information (known as subject access requests) are governed by:
The law governing the legal rights of parents and guardians will depend upon the nature of the parties' relationship to each other and the child. The applicable laws include:
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