Accessing Medical Records of a Child

Both parents assume ‘parental responsibility’ (in England) if a) both are on the birth certificate or b) married at time of birth. (Mothers will always have innate parental responsibility, regardless of marital status – the above largely applies to fathers). If we have any doubt as to the validity of parental responsibility (e.g. different surname), we may ask to see the child’s birth certificate as proof.

Parental responsibility does not change upon separation or divorce, unless a specific court order specifying so. Having sole custody does not impact upon ‘parental responsibility’.

Either parent with parental responsibility can legally request access to their child’s notes. If the child has capacity, they should be asked for their consent (ie consider in a child over twelve years old, bearing in mind a child may have capacity at an earlier/later age). If a child has specifically asked for all or part of their notes to be kept confidential and they have capacity to do so (and are not endangering themselves or others), we must respect this.

The surgery should ascertain the reason for accessing the notes when requested.

The surgery must ensure if we are releasing a child’s notes to a parent with whom the child does not live with, that we do not accidentally break the mother’s confidentiality by revealing information about her in the notes, or indeed her address. Therefore if we are giving access to notes, they should be sense checked prior to doing so to ensure we are doing so safely.