(2) whether his Department has powers to require foundation trusts to release medical records to the next of kin of a patient who has died in their care.
[holding answer 21 April 2008]: Access to deceased patients’ health records is permitted under the Access to Health Records Act 1990 (AHR) though this does not automatically provide a right of access for next of kin. Applications for access under the AHR may be made by the deceased’s personal representative and any person who may have a claim arising from the patient’s death. This may be the next of kin in some cases.
The Department has provided the national health service with guidance on access to the records of deceased but is currently reviewing this guidance in light of recent legal cases. Essentially, the decision whether or not to disclose records of the deceased is the responsibility of the organisations holding the record, taking into account obligations of confidentiality and any directions provided by the deceased individual.
The Department does not have the authority to require foundation trusts to release health records of deceased patients, but foundation trusts must comply with the AHR in the same way as other NHS trusts.