Your health records (also known as medical records) consist of information relating to your physical or mental health. They are made by a health professional in connection with your care. Members of staff responsible for your care receive training in relation to maintaining professional records of a high standard. All East Cheshire NHS Trust staff receive regular training in data protection, confidentiality, security and records management.
The Department of Health publishes a code of practice for records management. This sets out the minimum period for which different types of health records must be kept, either due to legal requirements or because they may be needed for your future care. Once this minimum period has expired, health and other trust records are dealt within one of three ways:
- Retain further - The trust may decide that records need to be kept for longer than the minimum period. However, we still must ensure that keeping the records does not contravene the Data Protection Act, which says that personal data should not be retained longer than is necessary.
- Transfer to archive - The records will be transferred to a secure archive if there is still a requirement to keep for a prescribed period or have some long term historical or research value. The Data Protection Act allows for personal data identified as being of historical or statistical research value to be kept as archives.
- Destroyed - The records will be securely destroyed. This will happen if the records no longer need to be kept for patient care or as a legal requirement, and they have no long-term historical or research value.
An example of retention periods of some common types of the health record is shown below:
- Children and young people (all types of records relating to children and young people) - retain until the patient's 25th birthday, or 26th if the young person was 17 at conclusion of treatment; or eight years after death if sooner.
- Maternity records - 25 years after last birth.
- Records relating to persons receiving treatment for a mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983 - 20 years after the date of the last contact between the patient and any healthcare provider, or eight years after the patient's death if sooner. A more detailed list of the different types of health record and their minimum retention period is available from the Department of Health website or you can view our own records management policies.
The Trust has an off-site archive facility with Deepstore at Winsford. The process for archiving Trust records to Deepstore (and for retrieving information, if required) is contained in the Guide to Sending and Retrieving Boxes and Documents from Deepstore, a copy of which can be found here.
FOI and records management
In addition to the Department of Health guidelines, a code of practice issued under section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act, gives guidance on good practice in records management.
It applies to all authorities subject to the Act and contains guidance on the review and transfer of public records to an archives office for permanent preservation.
The section 46 code of practice was revised and re-issued in 2021.