Can a mother have her dead son's records as keepsake?
One of our young patients was killed in a road traffic accident three years ago. His mother has asked if she can have his records as a keepsake as they are no longer of use to the NHS and may help her resolve her grief. Is this permissible?
You would not be permitted to provide the original medical records to the mother since they are officially the property of the NHS.
You are not obliged to do so, but it is probably permissible to provide the mother with a copy of all his notes, provided there are no specific concerns about revealing data that he would not have wished to be disclosed and provided no third party data would be disclosed in the process. You should then return the original notes to the health authority (or relevant authorities) in the usual manner.
Department of Health guidelines specify that records relating to children and young people (including paediatric, vaccination and community child health service records) should be retained either until the patient's 25th birthday (or 26th if an entry was made when the young person was 17) or 10 years after the death of the patient if that occurs sooner.
During this time it is unlikely the PPSA would allow the mother to hold the records herself.
She could ask the PPSA if she may have the records at such a time when they no longer have to be kept by the PPSA, rather than allowing them to be destroyed.
Dr Christine Dewbury, Wessex LMCs
Neither Pulse nor Wessex LMCs can accept any legal liability in respect of the answers given. Readers should seek independent advice before acting on the information concerned.