Registered files and file plans
Material held must include:
- the origins of the Organisation, staffing, functions and procedures
- principal policy papers
- submissions to the Chief Executive/Directors/Permanent Secretary/Minister
- submissions to the DoH
- material prepared for the Assembly or an Assembly Committee (including drafts)
- bids for contracts
- financial statements and accounts
- details of patient/client care or treatment
- material related to the delivery of services
- statistical records
- draft papers issued for comment together with comments received
- final documents together with a record of any changes, the reason for the changes and the alternatives considered
- notable events
- events of contemporary interest or controversy
- papers from bodies closely linked to the DoH, Public Safety and HSC,
- guides, manuals and instructions
- papers related to scientific, technological or medical research and development
- projects, review and evaluation reports
- contractual information
- original minutes of meetings
The following are examples of the type of material that should not be placed in a Registered File or in a File Plan in an approved EDRMS:
- copies or duplicates of any record where the definitive record is already held on a registered file or fileplan e.g. personal expense claims, copies of minutes and papers sent for information only
- publications received for information
In relation to paper files the 'reverse book' method of filing should be used, i.e. on opening the file; the latest paper should be filed on top.
Files should not start with a paper referring to another paper that is not in the file (copy from another file if necessary).
A reply should always be filed on the same file (and the same part of the file) as the paper to which it is responding.
Attachments or enclosures to documents should be filed immediately below the document to which they relate.
Plans, drawings or other bulky items should be put inside a brown envelope, and labelled with a brief description.
The brown envelope should then be tagged to the file.
Papers should not normally be removed from files. In exceptional circumstances where it is necessary to permanently transfer papers between files, a cross reference should be made on the original file.
Papers that are removed temporarily (e.g. for use at a meeting) should be returned as quickly as possible and a note of their removal should be inserted.
The lifespan of a registered file or an electronic container is limited to five years (with some exceptions, e.g. personnel files/containers, patient/client case files/containers) but where possible the lifespan should be restricted to calendar or financial years.
Electronic data may take the form of email, database systems, websites and other information systems.
As data is created in these various ways, it becomes evidence (a record) of the Organisation’s activities and is required for legal, administrative, financial, accountability and potentially historical/research purposes.
Other good records management practices include:
- once a file has been closed, no further papers may be added. If necessary continuation files for the same subject matter may be opened
- all papers should be filed at the right hand side of the file in date order, when the file is opened the most recent paper is at the top. For some types of records e.g. patient files this will not always be possible
- where possible, filed papers should have a hole punched for inserting a treasury tag, 2.5cm in, and 2.5cm down in the left-hand corner of the page, minimising the risk of detachment. For some file types especially patient records, personnel records, this will not always apply
- all papers received for filing should bear the appropriate file number in which the record is to be filed
- paper clips and pins must be removed from papers, before filing, as these will damage the paper, and when rusted can be a health hazard. Particular attention to this must be given to those records which, according to the disposal schedule, are to be preserved permanently by PRONI
- flags, either adhesive tables or strips of paper attached to a page with sellotape, should be avoided – paper card dividers should be used
- file covers should provide adequate protection for papers, and should be replaced if they become torn or damaged. The original cover should be tagged inside the replacement cover for reference
- files must not contain any loose papers
- metal tags should be replaced by plastic ended type
- avoid duplication of papers – only one copy of papers need be filed
- the copying of papers onto several different files must be kept to a minimum
- any bulky items, publications etc, which need to be filed should be placed in a pocket or envelope to the left, inside the file cover
- floppy disks and CDs must not be stored on paper files. The disk is an unstable media and is easily corrupted. Moreover its supporting software could be obsolete by the time the file and contents are subject to review or preservation
- E-records must be structured into folders with other electronic records that form part of the same narrative to ensure that all evidence of business activity is grouped together and safeguarded
- Isolated records are of minimal value; therefore records, including emails, must be saved into a structure of folders
- The structure of the folders must be simple and logical. It should proceed from the general to the specific; dividing a broader theme into sub-themes;
- The electronic filing structure must capture all metadata needed to identify, access and retrieve the electronic record so that it is possible to establish the context of the records, who created it, during which business process, and how the record is related to the other records
- The folder system must use the same file titles/index terms as the paper filing system, reflecting the relevant retention schedule. File titles should be as short as possible and care be taken to avoid repetition
- Folders of e-records should be closed and reviewed for retention in the same way as records held in a paper format. These folders should not be deleted from the system except in relation to retention periods specified in approved retention schedules
- Appropriate references linking the electronic file to the paper file must be used in order that retention criteria can be applied consistently