Divorced parents chasing GPs for children’s medical records

Children|Family|January 4th 2013

An increasing number of separated parents are contacting GPs to request access to their children’s medical records, according to a report in the Guardian.

The Medical Protection Society (MPS), which provides insurance cover for medical professionals, received a “record” 179 calls last year from GPs concerned about such requests – and has received more than 800 over the last five years. It believes this figures represent just a fraction of the total number of requests to GPs, as not all GPs are members of the MPS, and not all would seek advice after receiving such a call.

Most of the calls come from non-resident fathers. Sometimes they need medical information about their children during visits, but some have reportedly requested medical records to try and find out where the children’s mother was currently living or whether she had a new partner.

Richard Stacey, a medico-legal adviser for the MPS, said: “Calls from GPs concerned about separated parents having access to children’s records are now among our most common. Access to a child’s records can be a contentious point for separated parents and it has the potential to raise all kinds of issues relating to parental rights and the GP’s obligations. We received a record number of calls last year and expect that this will continue to rise.”

Parents with legally established parental responsibility are entitled to see their children’s medical records.

Stacey added:

“But you do get more vexed questions where the dispute is particularly acrimonious. Very often the parental dispute is such that one side is trying to find something in the medical records to hold against the other side. If the father approaches the GP saying: ‘I want to see the child’s medical records because I fear that the mother is abusing the child’, that sets a child protection issue running.”

He continued: “There may be circumstances where the mother has been the subject of physical abuse and may be living in a place of safety. The approach from the father to see the child’s record might be to establish the current whereabouts of the child’s mother. He may have a right to access the child’s record, but the GP may have to be mindful of the fact that he may have to withhold any information leading to the whereabouts of the mother.”

Photo by jasleen_kaur via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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