Health chiefs prepare four miles worth of top-secret records move within Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary health records clerk Connor Reid at work.
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary health records clerk Connor Reid at work.

Health bosses are preparing to move hundreds of thousands of patient records to a secret location within Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Work to move the documents, currently housed in a secure basement beneath the hospital, is scheduled to begin next month.

As there are so many files stored there it is easier for staff to count them by length rather than individually.

If laid in a single line, it is thought they would stretch for around four miles (seven kilometres) – roughly the distance of travelling along the Beach Esplanade from the River Dee to the Don and back again.

A spokesman for the health board said: “We are in the process of moving several hundred thousand paper patient records to another secure location on the site.

“This is a considerable piece of work which is being carried out alongside our commitment to further developing an electronic patient record system.”

It is expected that the specialist information security team contracted for the move will take around a fortnight to complete the job.

NHS Grampian is keeping the documents’ new home top secret in order to minimise the chances of any data breach.

The relocation follows a flash flood at the site in July 2015, when two weeks’ of rain fell in the space of around three hours.

Water then poured into the storage basement, destroying the hand-written counterparts of more than 8,000 records.

At the time health bosses stressed that these were just administrative notes, as all patients’ GP letters, test results and other correspondence are now filed electronically.

The spokesman added:  “As a health board we are legally required to hold patients’ records for prescribed periods of time and we take this responsibility extremely seriously.

“Over the long term, these changes will help us to make records more accessible to medical staff as well as significantly reduce our dependence on physical, paper based records.

“In addition to being far more efficient, the new system will also reduce our storage costs over and enhance security.

“We will also be able to put a dedicated scanning and transfer area in place that will allow us to make further progress with moving the records to an electronic format.

“Initially the move will cover the patient records for ARI but we hope to develop the project to including some of our other hospital sites in the future.”