Legal and Research Reasons Mean Health Records Should Be Archived For at Least Ten Years After Death

Legal and Research Reasons Mean Health Records Should Be Archived For at Least Ten Years After Death

The Department of Health requires Providers of health care in the UK to store patients’ records of treatment for a minimum period even after a person’s death.

Health records are stored at the place where a treatment or test was given, while the patient is alive. For example, consultation notes are stored at the GP surgery and hospital admission records will be stored at the local hospital.

The legal storage requirements vary during the patient’s lifetime, depending on the type of record – for example dental, GP, hospital, oprtician and Primary Care Trust (PCT) – after the patient’s death, however, they must legally be stored – in most cases for at least ten years.

The local PCT is responsible for storing GP patient records for at last ten years after a person’s death.

However, Department of Health guidelines say that records can be kept for longer and be transferred to an archive.

This will happen if the records no longer need to be kept for patient care or as a legal requirement, but have some long-term historical or research value.

Under the Data Protection Act personal data identified as being of value for historical or research purposes can be kept as archives.

Archives are particularly valuable in medicine for a number of reasons, not least because of the speed with which medical advances are happening. They preserve and help with further research and allow the development of new knowledge.

Archives promote a virtual community of knowledge with scholars sharing their expertise to help shape and enhance the value of the information being preserved.

For them to be useful, however, they need to be filed, labelled and stored properly in an environment where they are protected from fire, flood and other damage as well as being located somewhere where they can be easily reached by those who need them.

Most medical archive records are likely to be in paper form for some time to come and that could add up to a large area of storage space.

As long as those organisations with responsibility for archiving follow the Department of Health guidelines, plus data protection and human rights laws, they are free to choose the best storage and location.

So local self storage facilities that offer security as well as 24 hour access and are usually located edge of centre are a more affordable option than storage onsite in expensive offices, where they take up space and can add unnecessarily to overheads, something that all public bodies have to be increasingly careful about in the current severe economic crisis.

Organisations and companies can find a range of options to meet their archiving needs at self storage companies, most of which have experienced staff able to advise on how best to organise an archive that may need to be accessible for many years.

One company we consulted said it advised its customers to make two lists of the stored archives, one of which would be for the client, the other to be kept at the storage facility to help make it easier to locate a file quickly if needed.