How long are medical records kept and who can access them?

Our medical records are arguably some of the most sensitive documents that follow us throughout our lives. As well as containing information about our medical history, they also contain details about our lifestyles, finances and private addresses.

All of this information is like gold dust to cybercriminals who can sell medical data for a high price on the black market. In fact, some experts now warn that your medical information is 10 times more valuable to fraudsters and hackers than your credit card details! It’s a scary thought but it just goes to show the increasing threats facing our online data.

A recent data breach in the US where 12 million patients had their medical records hacked is just the latest in a long line of such incidents. As a result, more people are taking an active interest in their medical data and asking serious questions about medical records storage and accessibility.

In this post, we’ll answer the most commonly asked questions regarding medical records so that you’ll be in a better position to ensure the protection of your confidential medical data.

How long are medical records kept?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Records Management Code of Practice for Health and Social Care 2016 outlines the retention periods for people working with or in the NHS. In summary, they are as follows:

  •      GP Records – 10 years after death or after leaving the UK (unless they remain in the EU). Electronic patient records (ERPs) must be stored for the foreseeable future.
  •      Maternity Records – 25 years after the birth of the last child.
  •      Children and Young People – until the patient’s 25th birthday or 8 years after their death.
  •      Mental Health Records – 20 years or 8 years after their death.

In Scotland, medical records retention periods are slightly different than the rest of the UK. They are as follows:

  •      Adult Medical Records – 6 years after the last entry or 3 years after death.
  •      GP Records – 3 years after death. ERPs must be stored for the foreseeable future.
  •      Maternity Records – 25 years after the birth of the last child.
  •      Children and Young People – until the patient’s 25th birthday or 3 years after death.
  •      Mentally Disordered Person as defined by the Mental Health Act – 20 years after last contact between patient and healthcare professional or 3 years after death.

How do I access my medical records?

In the UK, the NHS records information about you and the healthcare you receive in both online and physical paper form. Most GP medical records are a combination of paper records (such as Lloyd George records) and digital records, either stored on the surgery’s computer system, in filing cabinets or stored externally at a document storage facility.

There are many different types of medical records and healthcare professionals are legally obliged to allow you to see them.

To access your GP records, you can sign up to GP online services. You will then be able to view parts of your medical records, including information about medication, allergies, vaccinations, previous illnesses and test results. While this service is free, you will need to be registered with a GP before you can sign up.

To access your Summary Care Record or to correct your health record, speak to your GP as you will not be able to view or change it online.

Who can access my medical records?

As medical records are highly confidential, only you and authorised healthcare professionals have automatic access to your medical records. However, other people can be granted access to your medical records if:

  •      They are acting on your behalf and with your consent, or
  •      They have the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf (such as with power of attorney), or
  •      They have another legal basis to access your medical records.

A request for access to someone’s medical records can be made directly to the healthcare provider, i.e. GP surgery, hospital or dentist. These are known as Subject Access Requests (SARs) and are outlined by the Data Protection Act of 1998. They can be submitted by email or post but will require the patient’s written consent or legal permission.

Medical records and storage security

Now that you know how long medical records need to be stored, as well as how you and others can access them, you’ll have a better understanding of how your medical records are managed and stored.

If you’re concerned about the safety of your medical records, contact your healthcare providers to discuss the security measures they have put in place to protect your data. While the threats to online medical data are becoming increasingly difficult to mitigate, there are still some sure-fire ways they can ensure the safety of your physical paper medical records. Chief of which is storing your medical records with a professional document storage facility.

At Flexible Storage, we provide secure document storage solutions for numerous healthcare organisations and currently store thousands of medical records. Our medical document storage service allows providers to securely store, retrieve and professionally destroy medical records, all in compliance with GDPR and Data Protection regulations. Get in touch with our team today to find out more.

How to Pack a Storage Unit

So, you’ve finally got around to hiring a self storage unit. (And why wouldn’t you? There are many great ways a self storage unit could benefit you.)

You know what items you need to store, you know how big your storage unit is and you know you need to make the most of the storage space. But what exactly are the best ways to maximise your available space, while also minimising the chances of damage? Luckily for you, Flexible Storage can rely on decades of self storage experience packing thousands of storage units to offer some professional packing advice.

For this reason, we like to think we know a thing or two about how to pack a storage unit. So without further ado, here are our expert storage unit packing tips…

Self storage unit packing tips

·      Tip #1 – An inventory is essential

As you box up and pack all of your items for storage (if you need packing inspiration, take a look at our guide to packing up a house), make sure you are recording everything as you go. An inventory is the best way to keep track of all your belongings as they disappear into their respective boxes. Number each box, itemise its content and make at least two copies of the inventory – one copy for you and one spare copy for your storage unit.

Once you have packed your stuff into your storage unit, a great addition to your storage inventory is a map of its content. This can be something as simple as a quick drawing of the layout of your storage unit, including labels or numbers for each storage box and individual items. This will save you a lot of time when you come to retrieve belongings from your unit, especially if you have many items in storage or you are returning to your stuff after a long period of storage. (It’s easy to forget your house keys, let alone an item you put into storage two years ago!).

·      Tip #2 – Think about what items you’ll need regular access to

Whatever you are going to store in your unit, there will likely be some belongings that you’ll need easier access to than others. As such, you’ll want to pack your self storage unit in a way that makes it easier to retrieve certain items. Less essential storage boxes should be packed at the back of the unit, always remembering to stack heavier boxes at the bottom with lighter boxes and items on top.

In terms of accessibility, one of the best ways to pack your storage unit is to create an empty space or aisle in the centre of it. Storing your items and stacking your boxes in this way will allow you to easily access your belongings without having to move anything out of the way. While this may not be feasible for every customer or storage unit, always remember to keep important things front and centre.  

·      Tip #3 – Dismantle larger items of furniture

This may seem like an obvious point but it doesn’t cross many people’s minds to make their larger items as small as possible. Now we’re not suggesting that you take an axe to your wardrobe, but many items such as beds, tables and desks can easily be dismantled and stored in a fraction of the space they would otherwise occupy.

Dig out your furniture’s assembly manual or just test them to see if they can safely be dismantled and easily reassembled. Make sure you safely store all of the necessary fixtures and fittings along with the item to avoid any issues in the future. (We’ve all experienced the frustration of losing that crucial final screw that will keep everything together, so don’t let it happen again!)

·      Tip #4 – Use as much vertical space as possible

One larger piece of furniture you might not want to dismantle is your shelves. Put them to good use in your storage unit in the same way you would at home. They are great for storing smaller items or things you want to keep handy while in storage. Shelves can also help to prevent your boxes being crushed, which can happen if too many boxes or too heavy boxes are stacked on top of each other.

Shelves aren’t the only way to optimise vertical storage space. Large, bulky furniture items such as sofas, bedframes and coffee tables are best stored vertically. This makes better use of often neglected vertical space and allows you to pack more items into your self storage unit – saving you space and money!

·      Tip #5 – Protect your storage items with quality packing materials

One of the most important aspects of efficiently packing a storage unit is knowing how to protect your items. Proper storage materials are the key. Soft furniture with delicate upholstery such as sofas and mattresses should be protected with paper covers while wooden items should be covered in dustsheets. Knocks and scratches are sometimes unavoidable when moving and storing furniture items. However, protecting your belongings with proper packing materials will significantly minimise the chances of damage.

With the appropriate protection, it’s even recommended to store smaller items inside larger ones. In the same way you would pack items in a storage box, bubble wrapped items can be stored in cupboards or desk drawers. While nothing can really beat a robust storage box, this method can help you make the most of your available storage space.

Going the extra mile…

At Flexible Storage, we strive to provide our customers with the best storage services possible. This extends to supplying our customers with the highest quality storage materials that we have tried and tested over our many years in the storage industry. These include 4 ply paper furniture covers, robust removal boxes, as well as industrial bubble wrap and packing tape.

For even more protection, we can also offer Self Storage Insurance via our partner NSIP Services. If you’re unsure whether you need insurance coverage for your self storage items, take a look at our self storage insurance guide to help you make up your mind.

For more advice on how to pack a storage unit, get in touch with our friendly team today. One of our professional storage consultants can talk you through your self storage options and even provide you with a tailored quote.