The Prime Minister has announced that the Government will launch an independent Public Inquiry into the Government and public sector response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public Inquiries can ask for a broad range of documents and records, and we want to provide our fullest support and transparency to any requests for information.
We are therefore reminding all colleagues to continue to maintain full and clear records, whether they are working on COVID-19, recovery, or as part our business-as-usual activities.
What does this mean for me?
Keep doing what you are doing! We have all been mindful of the need to retain fill and clear records for some time now:
- records management is part of our Mandatory and Statutory Training (MAST)
- hundreds of Records and Information Managers have been identified and are supporting teams and cells across the organisation.
- the COVID Records Management intranet page includes helpful guides and videos has been up and running since April 2020 https://nhsengland.sharepoint.com/sites/CIG/RM/SitePages/CORONA-VIRUS-(COVID-19)--Records-and-Information-Management-Hub.aspx
Please continue to save any documents which are potentially relevant in accordance with the existing record management requirements.
If in doubt, err on the side of caution and preserve anything that may relate to a potential public Inquiry.
All teams should suspend any routine document destructions policies that are in place until they receive a further update, or have confirmed with the NHS England and NHS Improvement Inquiry Team.
Why is document preservation important?
We will work with any public inquiry openly and transparently. We want to learn lessons where we can, and we want to show the amazing work that has been done.
In due course, once the terms of reference of the Inquiry have been confirmed, NHS England and NHS Improvement may be asked to disclose all requested relevant documents to the Inquiry.
Disclosure requests are often based on search terms or 'all documents or correspondence’ on a particular issue. We will be required to provide any and all documents that fall within the terms as set out by the Inquiry.
Any significant loss of documentation will cause delay, impede supportive preparation of any witnesses, increase costs and could harm the reputation of the NHS.
What if I have already deleted some records?
If you have any worries or questions, just email the Inquiry Team. Our details are below. We’re here to help and can support as needed.
Having worked in and with various COVID-19 response teams and cells, we completely understand that the organisation was working in new ways, in new teams and at pace. All organisations were and will explain this to the Inquiry. It is inevitable that some records will be missed, improperly logged, or simply not created in the first place. That is expected and we can help advise on what to do.
It remains important that we continue to save relevant records to the best of our ability, and the guides on our intranet pages are there to help you do that.
What sort of documents and records should I retain?
A ‘document’ is anything which records information. This includes records of decisions, the process by which decisions were reached, and the evidence and data used to support them.
It doesn’t matter what format the information is held on, or the type of device or system. It could be saved on computers, or on portable devices such as memory sticks or mobile phones.
As per your MAST training, examples of the different types of format includes:
- note pads
- electronic documents,
- models and datastores,
- text messages,
- social media,
- audio and visual recordings,
- ‘metadata’ containing information including details of authorship, the date or modification of documents.
The different types of records is very broad, but can include:
- Reports, PowerPoint presentations, records, briefings, minutes, notes and correspondence by email or otherwise, Teams ‘chats’, action logs
- Models and Sitreps and related data histories
- Material relevant to key policy decisions or submissions
- Materials relevant to policy or legislative development
- Training materials
- Materials relating to contracts, procurements, other commercial arrangements, data management, recruitments, secondments and appointments (paid or not) or requests and arrangements for support from other public sector agencies
- Any other documents relating to the organisations’ response or communications with patients, the system, industry or other stakeholders
- Personal Diaries/calendars
Full guidance on what constitutes a record is on the COVID Records and Information Management Hub
What if I’ve used my personal phone or email account?
It is not our policy to use WhatsApp or other instant messaging services for recording records or critical information. However, we do understand that people may have used instant messaging services in order to facilitate flexible working – both on a work and/or personal device(s).
If that was the case, please ensure that all work records, information and data is migrated from your personal assets to your identified Teams/SharePoint folders. We have set out some helpful guidance here to assist in the extraction/migration process
If a personal mobile device has been utilised for communications information relevant to the pandemic response, it is possible that device may be subject to an order for disclosure in the Inquiry and so should be preserved in accordance with this notice. If you’d like to speak to someone in the team about this, just get in touch.
Why do we have to do all this?
We need to describe how and why key decisions were taken. Access to relevant documents will be essential to enable those who are required to give evidence to articulate what happened during a period when many issues were being addressed at great pace.
In due course it will be necessary to search for and identify all relevant records, so it is essential that all records are appropriately saved and will be available for access including after any staff holding these have left NHS England and NHS Improvement.
For Records Management: Visit the Records and Information Management pages on the intranet https://nhsengland.sharepoint.com/sites/CIG/RM/SitePages/CORONA-VIRUS-(COVID-19)--Records-and-Information-Management-Hub.aspx