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Practice dilemma: Part-time dad requests children’s records

The father of two children aged eight and 13 telephones your practice and requests copies of their medical records. He is separated from the children’s mother but has care of them at weekends. Should you let him have the records?

The father of two children aged eight and 13 telephones your practice and requests copies of their medical records. He is separated from the children's mother but has care of them at weekends. Should you let him have the records?

The first question to ask is whether the father has parental responsibility – if so, he can apply for access to his children's medical records.

If a child is competent they may veto the right of the parent to access their records, and so their views on the request should be sought. In general, most children over the age of 12 are considered likely to be competent to consent to the disclosure of information about them and therefore their consent should be obtained.

If a child lacks capacity to understand the nature of the application then access can be granted to a person with parental responsibility where this would be in the child's best interests. In general, it is in the interests of the child for both parents to be fully informed about their healthcare, unless you have reason to consider otherwise.

Requests such as this are common, and practices can often find themselves caught in the middle of a dispute between the parents. You may wish to provide reassurance that the practice will treat both parties equally and that all decisions will be taken in the best interests of the child. Where there is any doubt about a request for disclosure you should contact your defence organisation for advice.

Dr Marika Davies is a medicolegal adviser at the Medical Protection Society

Patient records

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