Document storage and retention

  1. Our document storage and retention policy
  2. Storing records
  3. Records management responsibilities
  4. Our document retention schedules

Our document storage and retention policy

Records management is the efficient control of an organisation’s records, throughout their life cycle, to meet:

  • business needs
  • statutory and fiscal requirements
  • community expectations

It’s essential to capture, manage and preserve information in an organised system. Records management allows us to control the number of records produced through ‘disposal schedules', which explain the time period different types of records should be retained by an organisation.

In the context of this policy, a document is a record that contains information (in any media) that’s been created or gathered as a result of any aspect of the work of NHS employees. Electronic records form a major part of the information we hold. This policy applies to all NSS staff and those working on behalf of NSS at any location. Staff should contact their line manager or their HR or staff side representative if they:

  • have any difficulties understanding any aspect of this policy
  • need more information about applying or interpreting the policy
  • need to know about the accessibility of the policy

This policy is structured to reflect both the corporate and common types of records held in all parts of NSS and records specific to how the directorates and Supporting/ Strategic Business Units (SBUs) work.

This policy helps us achieve good records management, and it’s vital to complying with our statutory obligations under the:

  • Scottish Public Records legislation
  • Scottish Freedom of Information legislation
  • Data Protection legislation

The policy is closely linked to the NSS Data Protection Policy and our policies and arrangements for securely holding data on computer and related media.

Policy review

This policy will be reviewed two years from its effective date to ensure that arrangements put in place are appropriate to the operating requirements of NSS.

Download our Document Storage and Retention Policy (PDF 1.08MB)

Storing records

Corporate portal

geNSS provides information to all staff, including on:

  • policies and procedures
  • guidelines
  • newsletters

There must be a single definitive version of every document made available on the portal, and where required, automated documents links will be used to cross-refer to the document from other portal sites and documents. This will ensure that a single version of the document exists.

Offsite document storage

We have arrangements in place for appropriately and securely storing documents offsite within a national framework contract. Before any documents are sent offsite, a review/destruction date must be identified.

The storage arrangements should allow for the easy retrieval of records and information and should take account of the:

  • nature of the media
  • retention period
  • importance of the records to the organisation

Where paper records are retained, they should be boxed and clearly labelled showing:

  • type of material stored
  • date of storage
  • review and destruction date, where appropriate

Permanently preserving records

For records which are considered worthy of permanent preservation, we have an agreement with the Keeper of the Records of Scotland which sets out how we:

  • deposit
  • store
  • access NSS records

The Keeper of the Records of Scotland is one of the statutory titles of the Chief Executive of the National Records of Scotland (NRS) (external link). They are responsible to the Scottish Ministers for managing certain functions of the NRS, and to the Lord President of the Court of Session for efficiently managing court and other legal records. The records can be in any format, including paper and electronic.


Records management responsibilities


All staff are responsible for:

  • ensuring that records are retained for the periods set out in the schedule
  • reporting any failures to line management
  • where necessary, reporting to the Corporate Records Manager

All staff will receive training on records management at their initial induction. They will also receive further training appropriate to their roles, as determined by their Directorate or Support/Strategic Business Unit Manager. Update sessions will be offered, taking any new legislation into account.

Monitoring and reporting

The Corporate Records Management annual review programme reviews each business unit’s compliance with this policy, ensuring that NSS routinely disposes of business information that requires to be retained for operational or legislative purposes.

Subsequent review reports will be submitted to the Information Governance Group and to the Keeper of National Records Scotland under the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011, as evidence of the organisation’s compliance with the Act’s requirements.

Our document retention schedules

What we base our document retention schedules on

Our document retention schedules are based on the following:

Retention periods are simply minimum recommendations – use discretion before the disposing of any documentation. However, decisions to keep records beyond the stated periods must be justified and the Data Protection legislation must be adhered to if personal or patient information is involved.

Documents of historical importance should be labelled clearly and mustn’t be disposed of. These documents will likely relate to events of major importance.

What documents aren't included

Documents not included in the document retention schedules are:

  • advertising
  • correspondence
  • drafts or duplicates known to have been preserved elsewhere – unless they have important minutes or annotations on them
  • indices or registers compiled for temporary purposes
  • routine reports
  • any other documents which are no longer of value

Records such as these may be destroyed immediately following the process outlined in the ‘disposing of documents’ section in addition to local operational requirements. The author will normally retain the prime record, and unless agreed otherwise, all other copies can be destroyed. This is in the case where copies of a document are routinely kept in more than one part of the organisation, eg records of SBU Quarterly Performance Reviews or documents uploaded to an internal or external website.

If copies are retained then these should be destroyed once the stipulated retention period has come to an end.

Disposing of documents

The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland code of practice along with Scottish Freedom of Information legislation requires NSS as an organisation to log the destruction of our records. A document of the destruction of records listed within this policy should be maintained and preserved by the records manager, showing:

  • reference
  • description
  • reason for destruction
  • date of destruction

To meet this requirement NSS has a Document Disposal Register, completed on a divisional basis, and collected annually by the Corporate Records Management team.

Download the NSS document disposal register template (PDF 154KB)

Updating the document retention schedules

The Information Governance Group will agree any updates to the document retention schedules as required – for example where legislation changes or the Scottish Government issues updated guidance.

Download the Communications document retention schedule (PDF 382KB) Download the Corporate Governance document retention schedule (PDF 437KB) Download the Estates and Facilities document retention schedule (PDF 432KB) Download the Financial Management document retention schedule (PDF 437KB) Download the Human Resources document retention schedule (PDF 423KB) Download the Information Technology document retention schedule (PDF 318KB) Download the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service document retention schedule (PDF 732KB) Download the Legal Services document retention schedule (PDF 327KB) Download the Public Health and Intelligence Services document retention schedule (PDF 507KB) Download the Practitioner and Counter Fraud Services document retention schedule (PDF 483KB) Download the Procurement, Commissioning and Facilities document retention schedule (PDF 446KB)