Scan, store or shred?


  Posted by: manpreet.boora      29th September 2017

Our practice is 19 years old and storage is an issue. We are fully computerised and ceased using paper record cards and film X-rays years ago. Since then, we have had an archiving system in place that has worked well, but storage is becoming an issue. Our practice project this year is to audit and improve our Information Governance (IG) procedures. We held an IG meeting within the practice to discuss our action plan for improvement. We decided that our first IG task should be to tackle our record-card storage problem. We researched the Data Protection Act 1998, Health and Social Care Act 2008, GDC Standards for Dental Professionals, BDA and the NHS code of Practice. I then contacted a data retention company called Restore, to discuss the options available to us – storage, scanning or shredding. I found this really helpful as the company explained how all the procedures worked and reassured me that it was normal practice for health organisations to archive or delete data. We found them to be extremely professional and helpful. We had another IG meeting to discuss the length for which we’d keep data and the alternative options of storage or destruction. When it came to deciding the first issue, we chose to follow the NHS code of Practice, The BDA recommendation, and our indemnity provider’s advice: After the last point of contact
• 11 years (adults)
• To the age of 25 years (children)
It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but, again with the help and advice of our indemnity provider, we decided to shred patient data rather than store it any longer than we needed to. Storage and scanning are still covered by the retention of personal data guidelines, so were not a possible solution for us. Planning
After looking at our work diary and rotas we selected a free weekend, made a date for a Monday-morning shredding session and booked in the shredding lorry. We were advised by our indemnity provider to catalogue each patient’s name, reference number, and date of the last visit of all records we destroyed. This list will be stored on our private encrypted hard drive in case of any record requests from patients. When all the archive boxes were collected into one place, the magnitude of the job struck home: there were so many archive boxes of records and panoramic X-rays to catalogue. The bosses agreed to pay us overtime and promised a takeaway lunch for all staff who pitched in to go though and catalogue all the files. A fun Saturday was had by all. We checked old record cards and X- rays and there were some surprises (and not just spiders) unearthed. With the shredding lorry due to arrive in just a day, though, the pressure was on – but, despite our hard work, the pile of cards didn’t seem to be getting any smaller. Shredding day I didn’t sleep the night before Shred Monday, with fear of failure and the haunting vision of archive boxes on my mind. Thanks to a 7am start and the
overwhelming team-work approach from all the practice staff (plus the lorry driver efficiently informing us that he was going
to be slightly late), though, we did it! The shredding lorry arrived, and within a couple of minutes, all our hard work disappeared into the most enormous shredder I have ever seen. It was all over so quickly – but we did get a lovely Certificate of Destruction to show off, and of course, the knowledge that it was a job successfully completed!

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