Information for appellants, appointees, and representatives on changes to the Appeals Service NI medical records procedures

This advisory information is intended to inform customers about changes in procedures within the Appeals Service Northern Ireland. It is not intended to detail the legal rights of all appellants appearing before the appeal tribunal. If you require legal advice you should contact your representative/legal advisor.

What has changed for those making appeals (appellants)?

What has changed is the way that the Appeals Service (TAS) under previous procedures requested and held appellants’ medical records.

TAS has stopped operating this procedure, and no longer requests and stores an appellant’s medical records, either from GP surgeries or hospitals.

Appellants are not obligated to provide medical evidence to a tribunal; it is their decision to do so if they feel it helps their appeal, something appellants can continue to seek advice on from representatives/legal advisors.

Information in an appellant’s medical records can help their appeal, but it can also go against them.

Why is this change happening now?

Changes in this process are required to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.

When did this change come into effect?

This came into effect from Monday 8 April 2019.

Does this make the appeal process harder and more costly for appellants?

Since the 25 May 2018, appellants have been able to access their medical records from their GP or hospital, except in certain circumstances, free of charge.

Obtaining them well in advance of a hearing gives appellants the opportunity to look over their medical records themselves, or with their representative/legal advisor, so they can be fully and independently informed about what information within them they may, or may not, want to provide to a tribunal.

An appellant obtaining their medical evidence early enables them to take legal or medical advice on their contents, if they need to.

An appellant consented to TAS getting their medical records, what has TAS done with them?

Any medical records in the possession of TAS, obtained directly from GPs or hospitals are being returned to the GP or hospital.

How will this affect those making appeals?

This change may affect those going through the appeals process in different ways depending on the stage their appeal is at:

An appellant has already received the date of their appeal hearing:

When appellants turn up for their hearing, unless they have sought and obtained medical evidence themselves and brought it along with them, no additional medical evidence will be available to the appeal tribunal.

Appellants may wish to speak with their representative/legal advisor for advice on whether or not they need medical evidence. That may mean asking for their case to be postponed before the hearing, or adjourned on the day of the hearing to enable them to get and consider any medical evidence (see below).

Appellants may also ask for the case to proceed at the hearing, and be determined in the absence of any further evidence.

An appeal has been registered, but an appellant hasn’t been given a date of hearing:

Responsibility for preparing a case rests with appellants, not the tribunal or TAS who are neutral. If appellants (or their representative/legal advisor) think that medical evidence would support their case, they should try to obtain it, and at an early stage in the course of the appeal. It is important that the evidence is relevant to both the medical issue the tribunal have to determine, and the timescale of the benefit application.

If appellants do wish to provide medical evidence, they should send it to TAS as soon as possible, and not wait until their hearing date. Exceptionally, the tribunal itself may commission medical evidence. This will happen only where the tribunal finds that it cannot decide the appeal without further evidence.

Please note, if appellants bring evidence on the day of the hearing it may result in a delay to the start time of the hearing, or the hearing may need to be adjourned.

Any evidence provided to TAS is shared with the Tribunal and the other parties in the appeal.

Appellants should not send any original documentation as further evidence unless requested to do so. TAS cannot return any evidence sent in advance of the hearing.

How long will it take an appellant to get medical records from GP surgeries/hospitals?

Appellants will need to consult with their own GP surgery/hospital in each case for an estimate of how long this could take.

Under new data protection laws called GDPR, they should usually be provided free of charge and within one calendar month of your request.

A calendar month starts on the day after the organisation receives the request and ends on the corresponding calendar date of the next month. If the corresponding calendar date does not exist because the following month has fewer days, it is the last day of the month. If the end date falls on a weekend or bank holiday, the calendar month ends on the next working day.

What should an appellant do when they receive their GP records from surgeries/hospitals?

As with any evidence an appellant is considering providing, they should consider the records carefully, and decide what, if any of it, they want to provide to the appeal tribunal. Information in medical records can not only help an appellant’s appeal, but can also go against them.

Any evidence provided to TAS is shared with the Tribunal and the other parties in the appeal.

Evidence submitted using pen drive/CDs/tapes will be returned to the appellant. Evidence will only be accepted in hard copy format

What if an appellant decides they don’t want to provide any medical evidence?

In exceptional circumstances, if an appeal tribunal needs to see specific medical evidence they can ask an appellant to provide it. Any medical evidence sought by the tribunal should be relevant to both the medical issue they have to determine, and timescale of the benefit application.

Appellants should carefully consider any medical evidence they are providing, and seek advice from their representative/legal advisor if they have concerns about the tribunal’s direction.

Where can appellants get further information?

Appellants can always seek advice on any aspect of the appeals process, and their rights, by contacting a representative/legal advisor.

Further information on this change, and on the entire Appeals process, is available.

A leaflet detailing the services TAS provides and what to expect at a Tribunal is available.

You can also contact:

The Appeals Service (NI)
PO Box 2202
Phone: 028 9054 4000

The Appeals Service (NI)
PO Box 99
BT78 1AA
Phone: 028 8224 9595

Privacy notice

The Appeals Service privacy notice explains how it will use and protect any information about you.


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