The massive ransomware attack WannaCry in May this year that virtually shut down many of the UK’s hospitals and GP surgeries illustrated the vulnerability of digital records.
Medical services had to return to paper-based systems to carry on, showing the importance of having some kind of physical archive and back-up record-keeping.
A new code of practice about storage of NHS records was introduced in 2016 covering the retention and storage of both paper archive and digital records and specifying for how long.
It covered records of NHS patients treated on behalf of the NHS in the private healthcare sector and public health records, regardless of the media on which they are held. It included records of staff, complaints, corporate records and any other records held in any format including both paper and digital records. The guidelines also apply to Adult Social Care records where these are integrated with NHS patient records. Depending on the type of record, retention periods can be from 10 – 50 years after death.
The health sector is not alone in being legally required to keep records for many years. The same applies to local authorities, to some legal services, even to some aspects of business.
There are also situations where it is wise to ensure records are kept for long periods.
For example, home insurance claims sometimes take several years to resolve once and for all and the key organisation most customers will deal with is the Loss Adjustor so their record archiving and efficiency is crucial.
The loss adjustor is the co-ordinating link between the issuers of a home insurance policy, the customer, the contractors who will make repairs and anyone else who might be liable for the damage that has been caused.
So, it’s quite likely that the loss adjusting company dealing with the claim will have to keep archive records on file for a number of years just in case there are further problems.
Then there is the value of archives for both historians and for researchers in healthcare, new treatments and so on, all of whom need reference materials from which to develop their theories and knowledge.
But paper records are bulky and take up a great deal of storage space. Not only this, but they need to be preserved in such a way that they are both secure and easily accessible, with proper authorisation if necessary, but also that they are in conditions where they will not deteriorate.
Using a local self-store company is an affordable answer. Premises are dry, secure, with 24-hour access, and most good self-store archiving companies have experienced staff who can advise on the best way of storing documents to give easy access around the clock.
For example, we, at HomeStore advise customers to make two lists of the archived documents, leaving one with the storage company and keeping one at the customers’ offices.