How your health records are stored

Most GP health records are a combination of paper records and computer records, created or stored on the practice's computer system. Your GP practice will hold your records as long as you're registered with them.

Who holds your health records if you're not currently registered with a GP practice 

NHS NSS Practitioner services stores GP health records for patients that aren't currently registered with a GP practice or who have died. There are regulations that require records to be held for a minimum amount of time before being destroyed.

More details of our retention periods.


Moving your health records

In Scotland, the transfer of your GP health records is managed by Practitioner Services who work on behalf of your NHS Board. GP practices return the records to us for patients who are no longer registered with them. If you've changed your GP practice, we send these records on to your new GP.

How are my previous records traced when I change GP practice?

Your new GP practice will ask for information about your identity, your previous address and previous GP practice when you register. It is important to provide this information accurately so that your records can be traced. Your GP practice will supply this information to Practitioner Services so that they can provide them with your previous records.

If you were previously registered with a GP in Scotland

Practitioner Services will find an entry for you on the Community Health Index (CHI) national database. When they update your CHI information, a request is sent to your old GP practice which asks them to send your records to us. We will then send them to your new GP practice.

If you've previously lived elsewhere in the United Kingdom

Practitioner Services work with other organisations to request your records. We send the identity data you provided to NHS Central Register Scotland. NHS Central Register can trace where you were previously registered. They make sure the appropriate authorities in England, Wales or Northern Ireland know you are now in Scotland and that your GP records should be sent to Practitioner Services.

How are my records sent?

Paper records are sent to and from GP practices through an approved courier contracted to the NHS.

If your records are held on the GP practice computer system, Practitioner Services can usually transfer them electronically to your new GP practice, if you've moved within Scotland. These are moved automatically to your new GP practice through a secure electronic route.

If your new GP practice cannot accept the electronic records, we print them onto paper for your new GP practice. These are sent in the same way as paper records to your new GP practice.

At present there is no mechanism to send electronic records between different parts of the United Kingdom. Currently we print these and send them as paper records.

Practitioner Services are currently working with NHS agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to develop this service.


Understanding access and timing for moving your records

Paper records are sealed in special bags for transportation. No one couriering the record knows whose record is in the bags. When we log that your records are being transferred, we use the information on the cover and do not read the clinical contents.

If your records are electronic and your new GP practice can accept these onto their computer system, they will be transferred through a secure electronic route. The records are encrypted on dispatch from your old GP practice. No one will have access to them.

If your new GP practice can't accept these onto their computer system, or if you are moving to another part of the United Kingdom, we then print your records to paper to allow them to be used by your new GP practice. When the records are printed out they come with a front cover and end page. We use this to tell that the records are complete and do not access the contents.

All our staff involved in the transfer of health records are subject to the strict legal regulations covering the disclosure and confidentiality of patient information.

How long will my records take to move?

Practitioner Services aims to transfer paper records between GP practices within six weeks of registration. In most cases the transfer time within Scotland is much less than this.

If your GP practice requires your previous records as a clinical priority, they can make an urgent request for them. These requests are treated as a priority and in most cases the records are transferred within two days.

If your records are electronic, and they can be accepted onto your new GP practice computer system, they'll normally be transferred within two days of your old practice agreeing to release them.

Practitioner Services uses the Community Health Index to keep track of those records that have been received and those that are still outstanding. If your records have not been received within six weeks we will issue additional requests to your old GP practice.