Retention of health records

How long should patient medical records be kept retained? Here we set out tables of types of records and the length of time they should be kept.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Tuesday 8 September 2020
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Although this guidance refers to minimum periods for which records must be retained, there may be times when records need to be kept for longer.

Bear in mind that one of the key principles of the GDPR prohibits the retention of personal data for longer than is necessary.

 

Minimum length of retention of GP records

Nation Retention period
England, Wales, and Northern Ireland Retain for 10 years after death.
Electronic patient records (EPRs) must not be destroyed, or deleted, for the foreseeable future.
Scotland For the patient's lifetime and 3 years after the patient's death.
Electronic patient records (EPRs) must not be destroyed, or deleted, for the foreseeable future

Minimum lengths of retention of hospital records

Type of record Nation Retention period
Maternity records (including all obstetric and midwifery records, including those of episodes of maternity care that end in stillbirth or where the child later dies) UK 25 years after the birth of the last child.
Children and young people England, Wales, and Northern Ireland Retain until the patient's 25th birthday or 26th if young person was 17 at conclusion of treatment, or 8 years after death.
Scotland Until the patient's 25th birthday, or 26th if an entry was made when the young person was 17; or 3 years after death of the patient if sooner.
Mental health records England, Wales, and Northern Ireland 20 years or 8 years after the patient has died.
Mentally disordered persons within the meaning of any Mental Health Act Scotland 20 years after date of last contact between the patient and the mental health provider.
Or 3 years after the death of the patient if sooner and the patient died while in the care of the organisation.
All other hospital records (other than non-specified secondary care records) England, Wales, and Northern Ireland 8 years after the conclusion of treatment or death.
Scotland 6 years after last entry, or 3 years after the patient's death.