Records should be closed (i.e. made inactive) as soon as they have ceased to be in active use other than for reference purposes. An indication that a file of paper records or folder of electronic records has been closed, together with the date of closure, should be shown on the record itself as well as noted in the index or database of the files/folders. Where possible, information on the intended disposal of electronic records should be included in the metadata when the record is created.
All paper files should be closed:
- no later than 5 years after opening (with some exceptions e.g. patient/client case files, personnel files relating to individual employees);
- as directed in Disposal Schedules (Local disposal schedules should advise when files should be closed);
- when the depth of papers reaches 2.5cm limit. File covers are designed to be a protection for the records contained within. When the depth of papers reaches more than 2.5cm the file becomes hard to manage. Where this is the case the file should be closed and a continuation file opened;
- when the subject matter is finished;
- at the end of a calendar or financial year where the file title relates to a particular year; or
- when no new papers have been added to the file for two years. A new file can be opened again if it becomes appropriate. Exceptions to this rule will be patient/client case files, personnel files relating to individual employees.
Once a file is closed no further papers should be added. A yellow closure sheet (see Annex D, which should be reproduced locally on yellow paper) must be inserted to every file closed. This reminds staff requesting a closed file that no further papers should be added. At this stage you should record on the file cover the date:
- of the earliest and latest papers
- of first review;
- the file is due to be destroyed; or
- the file should be transferred to PRONI, whichever is appropriate.
The word closed should be stamped on the outside of the file, using a ‘closed’ rubber stamp. If, when a file is being closed, the subject to which it relates remains ‘live’ a continuation file should be opened.
The storage of closed records should follow accepted standards relating to environment, security and physical organisation of the files.