Back Main Menu

PR and Medical Matters

Can I see my child´s medical records?

If you have Parental Responsibility, yes. Health professionals must provide information when an application is made by an individual with parental responsibility where the child is under the age of sixteen (although also read the next section).

If you have Parental Responsibility for your children, a medical practitioner is obliged to see you when you request this, and to discuss matters relating to your children´s health.

You are welcome to use one of our template letters, if you are not sure what to write to the medical practitioner. Our templates are in an MSWord format.

Download Template

Can a GP refuse to share information with me?

Yes. Unless the health professional considers the child to be too young to understand the nature of your application and that it is in their best interest that information is shared with you, the health professional can only pass on information if they have the child´s consent.

An example of circumstances where a doctor may feel it inappropriate to share your child´s records would be where a fifteen-year-old girl had approached the doctor for birth control advice, and the child wanted the matter to be treated in confidence.

The health professional may withhold information if they consider that disclosing it would cause serious harm to the physical or mental health of their patient or any other individual.

A further scenario where information could be withheld is where your child´s record contains information about another individual, and to share this record with you would break that other person´s right to confidentiality unless you had their consent

Guidance for GPs is set down in the ´Principles of Confidentiality´ which can be viewed on the General Medical Council web site. The following extract may assist you:

General Medical Council
0-18 years guidance: Principles of confidentiality
53. Young people with capacity have the legal right to access their own health records and can allow or prevent access by others, including their parents.☆ In Scotland, anyone aged 12 or over is legally presumed to have such capacity. A child might of course achieve capacity earlier or later. In any event you should usually let children access their own health records. But they should not be given access to information that would cause them serious harm or any information about another person without the other personís consent.
54. You should let parents access their child´s medical records if the child or young person consents, or lacks capacity, and it does not go against the child´s best interests. If the records contain information given by the child or young person in confidence you should not normally disclose the information without their consent.24
55. Divorce or separation does not affect parental responsibility and you should allow both parents reasonable access to their children's health records.

Download GMC Guidance for Doctors

Are both parents entitled to be involved?

Yes, but only if they also have Parental Responsibility. In such circumstances, your views should be taken into account so long as they are deemed to be in the child´s best interests.

My consent for treatment?

Consent for treatment is only normally required from one person with parental responsibility.

Children´s Rights and consent

In England and Wales, no legislation specifically sets out the rights of children under sixteen to give their consent to medical treatment, so there remains some uncertainty about this in common law.

In the landmark Victoria Gillick case, the Judges held that "parental rights were recognised by the law so long as they were needed for the protection of the child and such rights yielded to the child´s right to make his own decisions when he reached a sufficient understanding and intelligence to be capable of making up his own mind". This has become known in law as the Gillick Principle.

Circumstances where a doctor would consider this principle would be where a girl under the age of sixteen asked the doctor for contraceptive advice.

How do I find my children´s doctor?

If you are unable to find out which doctor your children are registered with, you can contact the children´s Local Authority.

The Local Authority must provide written details stating where the children are registered to anyone with parental responsibility for the children.

How do I contact my children´s Local Authority?

Make the request in writing. Include proof of your parental responsibility in relation to the children by providing the Authority with either a copy of your Marriage Certificate, the children´s Birth Certificates or a copy of any Parental Responsibility Orders made in your favour.

You are welcome to use one of our template letters, if you are not sure what to write. Our templates are in an MSWord format.

Download Template

How to approach the children´s GP?

It may be more expedient to write to the medical professional to request information. Include a copy of your Marriage Certificate or Parental Responsibility Order or a copy of the birth certificate if your child was born after December 2003 or your Parental Responsibility Agreement. In the event your request is refused, you will have proof that a request was made. Feel free to use our template letter.

What happens if the GP refuses my request?

They may have good reason to decide not to disclose information to you. Should your request be refused, ask the professional concerned for information about how you can make a complaint.

You could consider making a complaint either to the head of the medical practice (such as the Practice Manager), the Local Authority or to the Information Commissioner (if you want access to a copy of your child´s medical records but this has been refused).

Is my consent required for my child´s circumcision?

The circumcision of female children is illegal. For male children, all holders of parental responsibility for the child must consent to circumcision. This was most recently held in common law in the case Re S (Children) (Specific issue: circumcision) [2005] 1 FLR 236.

On the question as to whether circumcision performed on a minor amounts to assault, the court gave the following ruling in the case R v Brown [1993] 2 All ER 75:

"Even when violence is intentionally afflicted and results in actual bodily harm, wounding or serious bodily harm the accused is entitled to be acquitted if the injury was a foreseeable incident of a lawful activity in which the person injured was participating. Surgery involves intentional violence resulting in actual or sometimes serious bodily harm but surgery is a lawful activity. Other activities carried on with consent by or on behalf of the injured person have been accepted as lawful notwithstanding that they involve actual bodily harm or may cause serious bodily harm. Ritual circumcision, tattooing, ear-piercing and violent sports including boxing are lawful activities"

The British Medical Council advises that the risk associated with male circumcision for non-medical reasons outweigh possible health benefits. Their guidance is worth reading:

GMC Guidance for Doctors

Follow us on:

Fbook Twitter Blog

Michael Robinson © 2014

Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales

Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's printer for Scotland.

Shop About us The Custody Minefield