Colleagues may find the following guidance, which has recently appeared on
the Information Commissioner's web-site, particularly useful in resolving
difficult issues regarding access to information about deceased persons.
It provides a concise general statement of the principles contained in a
number of recent decision notices by the Commissioner, notably those
involving access to medical information about deceased persons.
Since the guidance mentions the Access to Health Records Act 1990,
archivists working in places of deposit for NHS records should note that
this particular piece of legislation does not apply to the older patient
records transferred to them in accordance with s.3(1) and s.4(1) of the
Public Records Acts, since these are no longer held by or on behalf of a
health professional (one of the conditions for AHRA to apply - see s.1).
While the guidance is a useful statement of principles, archivists will
still have to resolve many practical issues in determining when records
containing information regarding deceased persons should be made routinely
available to the public, and in dealing with individual access requests.
With regard to medical records specifically, the practical advice given by
Colin Gale and Catherine Redfern in the Society of Archivists' Health
Archives and Records Group publication 'After the Hundred Year Rule'
remains extremely useful:
National Advisory Services
The National Archives
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