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Retention of Medical Records

The Medical Council Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners (Section 33.4) states that “You must comply with data protection and other legislation relating to storage, disposal and access to records”.

Helpful guidance to record retention is set out in the National Hospitals Office (NHO) Code of Practice for Healthcare Records Management published in 2007 and also in the HSE Record Retention Periods, Health Service policy of 2013. The relevant periods are outlined in the table below.


Type of Patient Record Retention Period
Adult/General 8 years after last contact.
Deceased patients 8 years after date of death.
Children and young people Retain until the patient’s 25th birthday or 26th if young person was 17 at the conclusion of treatment, or eight years after death. If the illness or death had potential relevance to adult conditions or genetic implications, specific advice should be sought as to whether to retain the records for a longer period.
Maternity (all obstetric and midwifery records, including those of episodes of maternity care that end in stillbirth or where the child later dies) 25 years after the birth of the last child.
Mentally disordered persons (within the meaning of the Mental Health Acts 1945 to 2001) 20 years after the date of last contact between the patient and the doctor, or eight years after the death of the patient if sooner.
Patients included in clinical trials 20 years.
Suicide – notes of patients having committed suicide 10 years.
Cause of Death Certificate Counterfoils 2 years.
Records/documents related to any litigation NHO recommend that the records are reviewed 10 years after the file is closed. Note however, if the litigation related to a child, this should not be used to lessen the retention period set out above.


NB: It is important to keep a log of records which are shredded in accordance with your retention policy.

The contents of this publication are indicative of current developments and contain guidance on general medico legal queries. It does not constitute and should not be relied upon as definitive legal, clinical or other advice and if you have any specific queries, please contact Medisec for advice.

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