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Improving and aligning records management for rapid response to continuing change
With a 2,160-strong workforce, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) aims to transform care, so people can live more independent, healthier lives in their community for longer. Top priorities include supporting the NHS, adopting good commercial practice, and maximising health and economic productivity through research and innovation.
That means ensuring vital paper documentation never gets lost and is quick and easy to retrieve. The foundations for this proactive records management ethos had been laid when Iron Mountain® helped standardise processes and consolidate off-site records management.
An even bigger challenge followed when the government dissolved Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities. The largest reorganisation in the history of the NHS meant a vast archiving estate had to be split and transferred to different owners.
Brendan Sheehy, Head of Records and Legacy for the DHSC, recalls: “We inherited thousands of boxes and relied once again on Iron Mountain resources and expertise. With their support we successfully migrated all those records into just two accounts.”
Rationalising 378 separate agreements with 45 different suppliers, the project extended beyond clinical notes and patient records to the secure storage of corporate documentation such as board papers, financial reports and HR files. Iron Mountain collected several thousand boxes, lifting the lids where required to examine and index their content.
“Now, when we request records from Iron Mountain, 999 times out of 1000 they arrive next working day.”
Brendan Sheehy, Head of Records and Legacy, Department of Health and Social Care
Now, those records are safely held off-site, spread across an Iron Mountain network of state-of-the-art storage facilities. This distributed model is especially important to the DHSC.
“We often need to pull files quickly and deliver them to local NHS organisations,” says Sheehy. “So, centralisation would never work. It’s much better to have the archive down the road than miles away. Now, when we request records from Iron Mountain, 999 times out of 1000 they arrive next working day.”
Iron Mountain support doesn’t stop there. In line with the Public Records Act, the DHSC is obliged to ensure that records relevant to the history of the nation are preserved and made available to the public. The Act used to require records to be stored for 30 years, but this is progressively reducing to 20 years.
The National Archives (TNA) is the official government repository and guardian of some of the most iconic documents – from famous artefacts like the Domesday Book of 1086 to pre-1920 military service records and more contemporary government files.
“The challenge for our relatively small team was to find a partner who understood the technical requirements that TNA places on us and could deliver at scale,” explains Sheehy. “We knew Iron Mountain had done it before and wouldn’t need any training or hand-holding, which in turn took a lot of pressure off our internal team.”
Following an initial review, Iron Mountain prepared all files to TNA standards, protecting against damage and ensuring they were immune from potential hazards like adverse temperatures and water leakage. “It’s comforting to know the nation’s most treasured records are in safe hands and will last for perpetuity,” adds Sheehy.
With this extensive records library now fully secure, the DHSC and Iron Mountain are currently piloting a digital scanning solution to help improve insight into box contents and assist with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance.
Brendan Sheehy concludes: “Our relationship with Iron Mountain is strong at all levels and everyone brings a can-do attitude. By leaving them to do the things they excel at, we’re able to use our knowledge and skills to deliver more value to the organisation.”