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Life insurance and access to medical records: a guide

While it may feel intrusive, insurance providers can ask to see your medical records when you’re applying for life insurance.

Here’s what you need to know about life insurance and medical records, including how to find the details of your medical history.

While it may feel intrusive, insurance providers can ask to see your medical records when you’re applying for life insurance.

Here’s what you need to know about life insurance and medical records, including how to find the details of your medical history.

Written by
Tim Knighton
Life, health and income protection insurance expert
Last Updated
10 JANUARY 2024
3 min read
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Can someone access my medical records without my permission?

Under certain circumstances, some public bodies are legally able to access your medical records without your consent. These include:

  • The police
  • The DVLA
  • Social services.

However, insurance providers can only see your medical details if you’ve given them permission.

How do I access my medical records?

You can access your medical records for free from these healthcare services:

  • Your local GP practice
  • Your optician
  • Your dentist.

All healthcare professionals have a legal requirement to let you see your records if you ask them.

And anyone aged 16 or over who’s registered with a GP practice in England can register for an online account to view their future medical record.

Why would a life insurance provider ask to see my medical records?

A life insurance provider could ask to see your medical records to assess the risk involved in offering you a policy. By looking at your medical records, a provider can decide how likely you are to make an insurance claim in the future. 

A provider also takes into account other factors before deciding on a price for your policy. These include your age, weight and lifestyle – along with the type of life cover you want to take out.

Will my medical records show my pre-existing medical conditions?

Your medical records will show full details of any pre-existing medical conditions.

A pre-existing condition can be any illness, injury or disease that exists before or at the time you take out life insurance. Examples include diabetes, a stroke and a heart attack.

You can usually still find life cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition. However, the premium could be more expensive and there might be fewer providers willing to cover you.

Read our guide to pre-existing medical conditions for more information.

Did you know?

Insurance providers should only take into account ‘relevant’ information in medical records that will help them assess the risk of a specific customer. If they use any information that isn’t relevant to deny you cover or hike up your premiums, then this is unlawful discrimination.

Can I get a life insurance policy without an insurance provider seeing my medical records?

It can depend on your age and lifestyle. For example, you might not need a medical report if you’re young and in good health. But if you’re older and smoke, your insurance provider may ask for a medical report from your doctor.

It can also depend on the type of policy you buy. Over 50s life insurance offers guaranteed acceptance, so you won’t need to take a medical or answer any health-related questions. As long as you pay your premiums, your beneficiaries will receive a guaranteed pay-out when you die, regardless of your health.

Compare life insurance

Having a life insurance policy in place can help protect your loved ones financially, while offering you peace of mind to get on and enjoy life.

Different policies are available and the one that works for you will depend on your circumstances. Make a start by comparing life insurance from a range of providers.

Frequently asked questions

How do life insurance providers check my medical background?

If a life insurance provider wants to check your medical background, they’ll need your permission to do so.

Only once you give permission will they contact your GP for a medical report. You’ll have 21 days to review the report with your GP before it’s then sent to your insurance provider.

How far back do my medical records go?

Medical records are usually kept for eight to 10 years after a patient’s final treatment. Mental health records are generally kept for up to 20 years or up to eight years after the patient has died.

However, insurance providers tend to focus on your medical conditions of the past five years.

If you’ve recovered from a medical issue, they may also want to know how long you’ve been free of symptoms. They ask for this because the information might affect your premiums.

How long are medical records kept after death?

GP records are generally kept on file for 10 years after the patient’s death before being destroyed.

Can life insurance providers check medical records after death?

A life insurance provider might ask to see the policyholder’s medical records when they die if it’s relevant to a claim. But they can only do this with permission from someone authorised to act on behalf of the deceased – for example, an executor.

What information is in my medical records?

Your medical records contain information about your physical or mental health, recorded by a health professional like your GP or hospital staff. Information can include:

  • Your name, age and address
  • Health conditions
  • Treatments and medicines
  • Tests, scans and X-ray results
  • Allergies and past reactions to medicines
  • Specialist care, like maternity or mental health
  • Lifestyle information – for example, if you smoke or drink
  • Hospital admissions, treatment and discharge information.

Can I get my medical records changed?

If you believe there’s an error in your medical records or information is incorrect, you can ask your GP to update it.

You can also ask your GP to change any part of a medical report you believe is inaccurate or misleading. If they refuse, you can add a written statement expressing your views, which must be attached and sent to the insurance provider with the report.

You can also stop the report being sent altogether. However, this could result in your application for life insurance being rejected.

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