Access to medical records
You can get access to your medical records and information in a number of different ways.
Confidentiality and disclosure
Your doctors and healthcare staff must keep your medical records private for you (in confidence).
The privacy of your personal information such as your medical records is protected by data protection laws and the Freedom of Information Act. Under these laws, other people and organisations cannot get access to your personal information except under exceptional circumstances.
Accessing medical records in the public healthcare system
You can access your medical records in the public healthcare system:
- By writing to Health Service Executive (HSE)
- Under data protection laws
- Under the Freedom of Information Act
- On the basis of a contract between the patient and the medical practitioner or hospital
- By discovery, in the course of court proceedings
The HSE provides a list of public hospitals.
Accessing medical records in the private healthcare system
If you visit your GP as a private patient, attend a private hospital, or are cared for in a private nursing home, you can get access to your medical records:
- Under data protection laws
- On the basis of your contract with the medical service, or
- By court order
Patient Safety Act 2023
In April 2023 new laws were passed which will improve your entitlement to medical information as a patient.
The Patient Safety (Notifiable Incidents and Open Disclosure) Act 2023 will require healthcare providers to disclose certain serious safety incidents to the patient and/or their families. It will also be mandatory for people to be informed that they have a right to a review of cancer screening results. This will apply to public and private healthcare settings.
This page will be updated when these laws are implemented.
Routine and administrative access to HSE records
You can access your HSE health records by writing to the service where you received your healthcare. The HSE gives information on getting your health records using routine and administrative access.
Data protection to access your medical information
You are entitled to find out if there is information about you held on record, to access those records and to have them corrected if they are inaccurate. This applies to public and private healthcare providers. Data held must be accurate and up to date. The rules on data protection are set by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
There may be situations where giving you the information on your records is likely to cause serious harm to your physical or mental health. In this case, you will not be given information
When you or somebody you know dies, GDPR laws do not apply to the personal data. You can read about how to access a deceased person’s records below.
The Commission also deals with complaints in relation to data protection.
How do I access my information using GDPR?
If you want to access your information, write to the relevant health service to make a data access request. You may be asked to provide evidence of your identity.
You can find more information about GDPR on the HSE website.
Freedom of Information to access your medical information
Your medical records are your personal records.
You have an individual right of access to your personal records held by the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (FOI Act).
Public bodies the FOI Act applies to include:
- The Health Service Executive (HSE)
- Voluntary hospitals
- Some health agencies
- GP records
You can check this list of public bodies covered by FOI.
If you are a medical card holder, you can use FOI to get medical records from records held by your GP.
You cannot use FOI for medical records from a private hospital or from your GP if you visit them as a private patient. Some public bodies are exempt from Freedom of Information.
How to access my medical records using Freedom of Information
If you want to access records under the FOI Act, you should apply to the public body that holds them.
If you have a medical card, the HSE holds the records of medical card holders.
If the head of the public body believes that giving you the information may be harmful to your health or emotional well-being, they can instead give the medical records to a health professional that you choose.
If you have a dispute about access to records under the FOI Act, you should contact the Office of the Information Commissioner.
How to access somebody else’s medical records
You can use FOI to access the medical information of:
- Your child if you are the parent or guardian
- An adult you care for if they are unable to exercise their rights
The head of the public body will only grant access to the records if they consider it is in the best interests of your child or person you care for.
Can I access a person's medical records after they die?
You can access the medical records of a person who is dead if you are:
- The personal representative administering the estate of the person who died
- Performing some legal function related to the person who died or their estate
- Their spouse (this includes a divorced spouse or cohabitee), next of kin or another person that the head of the public body considers appropriate
Accessing medical information in court
You may access medical records for court cases if there is a court order of discovery. The court may order a hospital or doctor to disclose or discover documents or medical records to a plaintiff's advisers if those documents are relevant to the court case.
You can read the health workers' ethical duty with regard to confidentiality in the Medical Council guidelines Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners.