How to correct mistakes in your health or social services record?

Advice on how you can change or remove electronic information held on you by the NHS, or council social services departments is published today.

The guidance is published by the National Information Governance Board [NIGB] for Health and Social Care.

It’s good that the Department of Health has published the guidance – but it’s clear that it’s not easy to change your records, and very difficult to have information removed if it’s wrong.

Some would say that officialdom is rarely more efficient than when protecting itself against possible criticism. So the NHS and councils and councils will usually want to keep any information that’s wrong in case something happens that means they could be criticised for removing it.

You can obtain a copy of your health or social services record under the Data Protection Act, and if you’re certain there’s a mistake you can point this out. The chances are that the incorrect information will remain intact and a note appended to the effect that you think it’s wrong.

This may be little comfort to some: the booklet makes it clear that your official file may contain information from a third party that you may not get to see. The booklet gives no assurance that speculation won’t be dressed up as fact.

Any official reading your file is more likely to trust what’s been put in your record by another official than your claim that it’s incorrect.   

There again there is some useful advice on this in the booklet:

“Clinicians and social care staff should take reasonable steps to make sure information is accurate before they record it, and, if appropriate, try to find out from you whether the information is correct.

“If professionals find that information is not accurate or that it has been reported maliciously (that is, with the intention to cause harm), they should say this in the record. They may also feel it is appropriate to remove the information from the record if it has not already been used to make a decision.”

The booklet “Requesting amendments to health and social records “is aimed at patients, service users and the public. It’s published by the NIGB.