The BBC health website has reported that a Worcester man has been asked to pay £2,000 for copies of an echo cardiogram.
Mr Andrew Brown, who underwent a cardiac ultrasound at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in 2004, requested copies of his medical records, including the ultrasound. Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (the NHS trust which administers the hospital), charged Mr Brown £10 to provide copies of his medical records. However, the trust only provided the report of the echo cardiogram, not the image.
When Mr Brown asked for a copy of the image of his echo cardiogram, he was told that it would cost too much to produce. Images made between 2004 and 2008 had been stored in an obsolete format. In order to generate the image, the trust needed to purchase special hardware, at a cost of £2,000.
Mr Brown told the BBC that he was concerned that ‘there could be hundreds if not thousands of records between 2004 and 2008 that patients can't access on these discs’.
In a statement, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: "The trust does have the visual data on file but the cost of generating an image from what is now obsolete technology is not a cost effective use of public money." The trust said that it had made unsuccessful enquiries with other trusts to see if the equipment was available elsewhere in the country.
The Data Protection Act 1998 gives individuals the right to access their personal health records, including images such as x-rays and cardiac ultrasounds. The maximum charge for copying and posting the records is £50. A record keeper has 40 days from the date of the request to produce the records. No fee can be charged where the individual concerned only wants to inspect their health records.
Alison Appelboam-Meadows, partner in Penningtons’ clinical negligence team, commented: “Whilst this is a very unusual case, we often see instances where trusts provide incomplete copies of clients’ records or where documents are produced well outside the 40 day time limit.”