Disputes between parents over children’s medical records on the increase

The Medical Protection Society (MPS) has reported an increase in calls from GPs seeking advice about providing on parents warring over a child’s medical records – a record 179 calls last year.

The most common request for advice that MPS receives in these circumstances relates to an estranged father seeking access to medical information about their child, following an acrimonious split with the child’s mother.

Richard Stacey, Medicolegal Advisor at the Medical Protection Society, said,

“The interests of the child are paramount at all times. In most cases the request for access is well-intentioned and reasonable, but it is important that all requests for access to a child’s records are dealt with fairly and in line with the relevant professional guidance and legislation.

“When disclosing information, GPs must make sure that the person making the request has parental responsibility. They must be careful to withhold any information in the records relating to identifiable third parties*, or that could be harmful to any parties. Consideration should also be given to whether or not it is appropriate to obtain the child’s consent before disclosing information.

“It is vital that GPs do not become embroiled in any family disputes, although this can be especially difficult when both parents are patients at the practice. Doctors must consider any request for access to a child’s records objectively and fairly.”

MPS issues factsheets for Scottish GPs on Parental Responsibility and Access to Health Records.

The Parental Responsibility factsheet includes the suggestion to GPs that: “Fathers with parental responsibility have a right to access a child’s medical records, but you may consider that it would be in the child’s best interests to allow a father access to the notes, even if he does not have parental responsibility.”