R (on the application of TA) v North East London NHS 
EWCA Civ 1529
Mr TA was involved in family proceedings with his wife, W. W
had been granted custody of their child.
A report had been prepared by a consultant psychiatrist (X) on
Mr TA sought an investigation into the circumstances of the
report and an explanation of how X could have reached conclusions
which were apparently at variance with those of other medical
The NHS Trust considered that in order to properly investigate
the complaint they would require access to the complete medical
records of W.
W refused to give her consent.
The NHS Trust refused to investigate the complaint on the basis
that in order to do so it would need access to W's medical
records; W's consent was not forthcoming and so the Trust would
be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 if it were to carry
out the investigation. This refusal to investigate is the decision
upon which Mr TA sought judicial review.
Mr TA's argument
Section 35 of the Data Protection Act 1998 provides an exception
to the non-disclosure of personal data provisions of the Act where
disclosure is required by or under any enactment.
Mr TA contended that the Trust has a statutory duty to
investigate the complaint under The Local Authority Social Services
and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations
It was argued that by virtue of that statutory duty to
investigate complaints, the Trust has an implied power to enable it
to carry out its duties, which satisfies section 35(1) of the DPA
Conclusions of the Court
Any power to disclose records as sensitive and confidential as
medical records without the consent of the patient must be
expressly stated; it cannot be implied. The 2009 Regulations did
not expressly allow the NHS Trust access to a patient's medical
records without that patient's consent when investigating a
Therefore, the NHS Trust's decision not to investigate the
complaint was not unlawful.
The case emphasises the importance of patient confidentiality
under the DPA 1998 and the narrow scope of the exception to
non-disclosure under s35 of the 1998 Act.
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