How do I get copies of my records?
You almost always need to make a request to see your records in writing. This is called a subject access request.
A subject access request can be:
- an email or a letter requesting copies of your records.
Sample subject access request letter
Download a sample subject access request letter (Word doc or PDF).
- a standard form an organisation may have to request access to records
- a non-standard form, such as through an organisation’s website or social media account – for example Facebook or Twitter. However, this may lead to a delay in your request being dealt with, as it is unlikely that the team responsible for social media will be the same team responsible for dealing with subject access requests. This means they may not recognise your request as a subject access request. There may also be practical difficulties in relation to you being able to prove your identity if you make your request in this way.
However, under equality law an organisation has a legal duty to make its services accessible. If your mental health problem makes it impossible (or unreasonably difficult) for you to make a request in writing, an organisation may have to make a reasonable adjustment to its normal data protection policy. This could mean that it treats a verbal request as a valid subject access request.
When preparing your subject access request:
- Provide enough detail about the records you wish to see. If your request is too vague, you may be asked for further information which will delay disclosure.
- Think about exactly what you want to see –for example your social services records for a particular period of time or medical records held by a particular doctor.
- Avoid asking for information that is too general – for example “all information that the Council holds about me”. Although you can ask for this, you may end up with information that is not relevant. It might be better to ask for all of the records held by a particular service or department – for example “all of my social services records” or “a copy of my personnel file”. It is a good idea to mention that you’re making a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998 and that there is a 40-day deadline for the organisation to respond.
- Send your request by recorded delivery or by email. This will mean that you have proof of the date your request was sent. You should also keep a copy of your letter or subject access request form and all other correspondence exchanged in relation to your request. This will be important evidence if you need to make a complaint.
- Provide proof of identity. The organisation needs to be sure that you are the person to whom the information you have requested relates. You might be asked for a photocopy of your passport, driving license or a utility bill. However, if the person you make the request to knows you well you should not need to provide detailed proof of your identity.
How long will it take to get a response to my subject access request?
Organisations have 40 days to respond to your subject access request starting from the day they receive your request and any fee you have to pay. When calculating the date by which you should receive the information you have requested, you should include weekends as the 40-day time limit refers to calendar days not working days.
Will I have to pay?
You will probably have to pay a fee to the organisation for copies of your records. The maximum fee you can be charged is £10.00, unless you are asking for educational or health records, for which the maximum fee is £50.00.
If a fee is payable, the 40 days will not start running until the organisation has received this.
It is worth looking on the organisation’s website or giving them a call before submitting your subject access request to check:
- where to send your request
- what information you will need to provide to confirm your identity
- whether a fee is payable and if so how this can be paid
If you are able to send appropriate proof of identity and the relevant fee at the same time as making your subject access request, it should make the process quicker.
Checklist: How do I make a request for personal information?
1. Think about the personal information you wish to see.
2. Identify which organisation holds this.
3. Check their website or call them to find out:
- who to send the subject access request to
- whether the organisation has a standard subject access request form
- whether there is a fee to pay, and if so, how much and how can payment be made
- what form of proof of identification the organisation needs
4. Draft letter or subject access request form (if the organisation has one).
5. Send to the relevant contact at the organisation with proof of identification and the relevant fee. Ideally, send the request by recorded delivery so that you can track the request.
6. Keep a copy of the letter or subject access request form you have sent.
7. Put the deadline for disclosure in your diary - 40 days after receipt by the organisation.