Real life

My request to see my medical notes has sparked all-out panic at my GP surgery

Me exercising my legal rights made it want to lock its doors and hammer large pieces of crooked wood over its windows

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

My request to see my medical notes has sparked all-out panic at the GP surgery.

‘What do you mean?’ said the receptionist who answered the phone when I called to ask. She sounded even more furious than the time I rang to ask if I could possibly have an appointment to see the doctor. On that occasion, she affected her best Lady Bracknell impression, ‘The doctor? You want to see the doctor?’

‘Well, yes if it isn’t too much trouble,’ I spluttered, as she audibly bashed her keyboard in ill-disguised rage at my impertinence.

On this occasion, she was horribly icy. ‘I mean,’ I stammered, ‘I want to see my medical notes, as the law entitles me.’

‘The law?’ she said. A haaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaand-bag!

‘Yes, I understand, reading the legislation, that I am entitled to view my notes.’

‘They’re not your notes. They’re OUR property!’

‘Really? Well, in any case, I’m entitled to…’

‘WHY?’

‘Why what?’

‘Why do you want to see them?’

Oh dear, she’s going to have me struck off the patient list for being a subversive. I will never get a doctor’s appointment again. Possibly they will have me sectioned and locked away.

‘Well, e-hem, as I understand it, I don’t have to give a reason…’

‘YES YOU DO!’ she yelled.

‘No, I really don’t,’ I said. And I read out the relevant sentence in the NHS guidelines, which I had on the laptop screen in front of me. Silence. ‘You see, I don’t have to tell you why.’

‘I never said you did!’

‘Yes, you did. You said exactly that just a second ago.’


‘Well, you’ll have to put your request in writing!’

‘Who shall I put it in writing to?’

‘The practice manager!’

‘And their name is?’

She gasped with exasperation before saying a name that was so utterly impossible to guess how to spell I had to ask, and she spelt the name by spitting every letter like a shot of venom.

And so I duly put my request in writing and delivered it by hand to the surgery. That was six months ago, and the other day I remembered that I had still heard nothing. Not even the courtesy of an acknowledgment.

I rang again and the same woman yelled, ‘I don’t know anything about this! What request?’

I explained again and then I heard a woman sitting next to her murmuring that she had been sitting on my request because she couldn’t find my contact details.

‘But they’re on my letter,’ I said.

‘NO THEY’RE NOT!’

‘Right, I’m calling up a copy of my letter on my laptop now and …yes, my address is on the top.’

‘I never said it wasn’t!’

‘Oh Lordy. Look, can I just come and see my medical notes?’

‘I’m not saying you can’t!’

Let’s be clear: there’s no implication or complication for them to show me my notes. They just don’t want to. A patient exercising her rights makes a GP surgery want to lock its doors and hammer large pieces of crooked wood over the windows.

They don’t want me to have information. They don’t want me to know my arse from my elbow, if possible, so they can tell me which is which, according to which way round suits them. If it serves them for me to think my bottom is halfway up my arm, then that is what they will give me to believe.

‘Please, let me explain,’ I said, trying to be nice. ‘I am entitled to make what is known as a Subject Access Request…’

‘I’m not saying you can’t see them!’ There was pure hysteria in her voice now.‘But you will have to come and sit in a secure room and we will have to sit with you.’

‘On what legal basis?’

‘What?’

‘Which part of the legislation says that you can sit with me while I look?’

‘Legis ..Look! I never said that!’

‘Oh, please. Can you just let me see my medical notes?’

‘We have to secure you a safe place to view them in,’ she said, digging deep into her Pocket Guide to Public Sector Obfuscation, ‘and it has to be in the surgery and it can’t be when the surgery is busy.’

So never then. The surgery is always full to bursting. ‘So when?’ I asked.

‘It has to be at lunchtime,’ she said, ‘between 1.30 and …er …2.45!’

She was making this up as she went along.

‘Fine,’ I said. ‘That suits me.’

‘What day?’

‘Any day.’

‘Any day?’

‘Any day at all. I can come any day you want.’ Silence. Horrible, furious silence.

Eventually she told me she couldn’t possibly tell me what day I could come without going away and thinking about it. She said she would get back to me with ‘an appointment’. I’m not holding my breath.

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Show comments
  • Ahobz

    You never fail to entertain.

  • Chris Morriss

    GPs: Useless quacks the lot of them. The NHS needs a b*mb under it, and it needs it now. Only last week my brother, on making an appointment to see one of the amorphous bunch of doctors at the local ‘health centre’, found himself talking to a pair of eyes peering through the visor slot in a burqa. I would immediately have said that a doctor-patient relationship requires trust on both sides and demanded that she uncover her face.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Or demanded another doctor. Outrageous that anyone in this country has to put up with that.

    • Lydia Robinson

      Would someone with an obviously religious agenda be able to offer contraceptive or abortion advice?

  • Retired Nurse

    With electronic records, you should ask for a computer audit trail too – this is a mandatory part of the record, and identifies who has accessed them, where they were accessed from, and what data was entered or amended – very interesting if you’re querying a mistake or intending to complain, as those ‘last minute alterations’ can be very very revealing in some cases ….

  • rick hamilton

    Why did anybody ever imagine that providing an essential service by government ‘free of charge’ would ever be efficient or remotely customer friendly ? The only reason they get away with it is that the vast majority of their customers are too sick and worried to complain on the spot. Just imagine a National Food Service or National Clothes Service. I remember the National Rail Service, the National Telephone Service and the National Motor Manufacturing Service only too well and look where they got us.

    • Tox66

      They hold withdrawal of treatment over us all at all times. Check the sign about “inappropriate” behaviour and language in every waiting room and ward of the NHS. Inappropriate means anything they want it to mean, most particularly asking difficult questions.

  • Tox66

    Angels. They are all underpaid angels and heroes and you a a beast to ask anything of them at all.

  • qertyiou

    Try getting your notes from a hospital visit. Liverpool NHS don’t even bother to answer your emails – wilful neglect?

  • Terence Hale

    Hi,
    “My request to see my medical notes has sparked all-out panic at my GP surgery”. You think you have a problems. In Holland I had to get a lawyer and after three years I obtain some of my files.

  • Lydia Robinson

    Nothing surprises me about the National Stasi Service anymore. Yet another scandal emerging about newborn babies.

    You will have to go private, Melissa, if you can afford it. All my visits and treatment are shared with me immediately whenever I have used private medicine.

  • tres66

    This being North Essex the NHS is somewhat third world, both in the quality of its service and in the origin of its personnel. However as long as you remember to keep everybody informed on your needs all the time, I find most people are nice to you. So as long as you don’t mind going around in circles, everything is fine.

  • Jim Hodgson

    Please don’t assume that ALL GP surgeries are like the one that Melissa writes about. After all if she had had her request complied with in a friendly efficient way it wouldn’t have been very interesting.
    And yes, I do have a vested interest – I am a GP who thinks like many that giving access to the medical records should not be a big deal. And similarly, there are certainly some useless quacks among GPs but surely not “the lot of them”.

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