If you work in any part of the National Health Service (NHS), you're inevitably going to have to work with paperwork as well as patients. Medical notes, meeting minutes, financial receipts, equipment logs, and visual media (such as X-Ray slides) are all part and parcel of delivering efficient, effective healthcare. Once these documents have served their day-to-day purpose, they become known as medical records.
What happens to these records and your other printed retained data when you're no longer using the material? And what happens when the medical records you've created are truly historic and are no longer relevant to patient care or departmental management? How long do they need to be held for?
What Is A Record Retention Schedule?
At Clark's Archival Storage (CAS) Limited, we specialize in the secure retention, security, and cataloging of all types of NHS medical records. We'll hold on to them for our healthcare clients and make sure they're safe and ready for access until they're no longer needed. We do this by creating a document known as a Record Retention Schedule (RRS).
The RRS outlines why each type of document needs to be kept, the minimum legal (or recommended) time it should be kept in storage, and how historic documents should be categorized while in storage.
If you're storing records with us, it's a good idea to assign a dedicated RRS officer to make sure that your department is fully compliant with our specs. You can find our full list of recommended criteria and retention timescales for different types of documents here.
Why Do I Need To Keep NHS Records In Storage?
If you're administering paperwork in any part of the NHS, there are four reasons you need to keep hold of an archived document past its use-by date.
If your workplace is audited for health and safety, financial reasons, or to measure performance, you'll need to provide copies of logistical and financial records to your auditors. Failing to show these documents might result in fines or black marks against your performance rating. Audit records can include delivery receipts and stock logs. This applies to both public and private receipts.
You will usually need to retain financial NHS documents for up to three years.
Staff administration documents, important correspondence, meeting notes, and payroll logs should be retained for legal reasons. Being able to cite historic documents may help improve your overall management and aid in resolving disputes or information retrieval. Health and safety documentation (e.g. risk assessments, accident logs) should also be retained.
These NHS records should be stored securely for up to three years.
UK law requires that any personal medical records made by the NHS MUST be retained for a minimum of twelve years. This applies to private healthcare providers and employers using medical records as well.
NHS policy set out by the Department of Health also requires that certain medical records are retained in storage for reference until strict set deadlines pass. These can be a set number of years or a specific milestone in the patient's development (e.g. eighteen years of age). Some records need to be retained for a very long time e.g. dental records must be held for a minimum of thirty years before destruction can be authorized.
Each one of our NHS clients has different criteria that we apply to their record deposits. For a comprehensive set of NHS criteria (legal and policy-based), the Department of Health's current guidance is available online to read for free.
4) Miscellaneous Patient/Professional Requests
If requested, certain medical records may be retained indefinitely or for the course of a patient's long-term treatment. Records may be retained forever if they are held to be 'in the public interest' to keep. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
What happens once my NHS records are no longer needed?
Once a destruction deadline passes or a disposal order is given (and it's legal to do so), your record archival service should securely shred and dispose of the records. Specialized software should be used to destroy any digital scans of documents. If your documents are held with a third-party, they should do this for you to a professional standard according to their working copy of your RRS.
Document retention, scanning, and destruction from CAS Ltd.
Clarke's Archival Storage (CAS) specializes in secure off-site archive retention and shredding for a wide range of UK clients. We're experienced in dealing with varied needs and requirements as well as document digitization and scan-on-demand solutions.
Call or email us today to discuss how we could solve your archival issues.
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