Department of health: medical records management

Customer Success Stories

National law firm DWF consolidates all information management requirements with a full suite of services from Iron Mountain

26 February 20168 mins
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Shaping and funding healthcare in England, the Department of Health (DH) ensures people have the treatment they need with the dignity they deserve. It employs 2,160 people at offices across the country. And it generates an abundance of documentation that needs to be safely and securely stored, yet readily available when needed.


Brendan Sheehy, departmental records officer, says: “Although there’s an increasing move to electronic files, paper records still play a vital role and will for many years to come.” Iron Mountain used to provide day-to-day archive medical records management at a DH building in Nelson, Lancashire, but that lease was set to expire. Other arrangements had to be made.


Whenever there are NHS organisational changes, DH plays a key role. An example was the recent cessation of primary care trusts in favour of clinical commissioning groups. “That saw us as temporary custodian for thousands and thousands of patient records until new organisations took responsibility,” confirms Brendan.

Many of the patient records that the Department took responsibility for were held with Iron Mountain under a variety of commercial agreements. But some were held by other service providers. Brendan recalls: “We were presented with an ideal opportunity to consolidate our archives with a single supplier to standardise processes and gain economies of scale.”

With Iron Mountain the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) preferred supplier for off-site document storage and related services, that transition was to prove well within reach. A new call-off contract pursuant to the CCS RM1689 framework was soon agreed, allowing DH to immediately benefit from beneficial pricing.

The transition involved three work streams:

  • The relocation of records at Nelson to Iron Mountain off-site storage
  • Review, rationalisation and restructuring of primary care trust records
  • Onboarding files held by other service providers when commercial terms allowed

Archive files that are less likely to be required regularly are placed in box storage, currently totalling 10,000 cubic feet. Files that may be required more frequently like patient medical records – of which there are currently 430,000 – are in open shelf storage.

“Our records are predominantly with Iron Mountain as a single service provider and so we no longer have to search different IT systems to find what we want,” says Brendan. “It’s much simpler and more efficient.”

The Iron Mountain professionals who ran the transition now offer a bespoke managed service. Their tasks include being the first point of contact for use of the Iron Mountain Connect™ online portal, repair of damaged files and the preparation of records for admission to the National Archives.

“Iron Mountain does a fine job in managing the day-to-day complexity,” Brendan adds. “It also has a great logistics service that gets things where they are needed when they are needed.”

Value of Medical Records Management

Consolidating off-site records management with Iron Mountain has standardised and simplified records management and is saving considerable sums. Moving the records stored in-house at Nelson to Iron Mountain was a key enabler for the subsequent closure of the building, releasing high-cost office accommodation.

Already, Department of Health records management costs have reduced by almost £250,000 a year and the expectation is for the savings to grow to £460,000 per annum once the transition is fully complete.

The Iron Mountain service also includes comprehensive financial reporting to allow allocation of records management costs to responsible departments. “Transfer charging NHS organisations for the records they have in central storage makes them more accountable,” says Brendan. “It helps focus minds to make sure we only retain those things we need or are required by legislation to keep.”

DH and Iron Mountain are planning a trial of technology to improve file security and tracking. Currently at the feasibility stage, this involves low-cost RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags to aid traceability. With RFID scanners in DH premises at entry and exit points or even in individual offices, file locations will be visible at all times.

Brendan sums up: “Working with Iron Mountain is a joy. We work together as one, nothing is too much trouble and they’re invariably adaptable and responsive to our needs.”

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