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News, Notes, and Queries

Medical History
Cambridge University Press
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  • Articles
  • History
  • Medicine


News, Notes, and Queries Medical Archive and Manuscript News The year started with a letter to the BMJ expressing concern about the premature destruction of medical records which was "at least in part ... attributable to the pressures of space in the NHS" (M M Hawkins and A W Craft, BMJ, 1995, 310: 258). This concern was fuelled by the proposed guidelines from the Department of Health, the BMA, and the European Commission about safeguarding confidentiality. A revision of this document, the present (Oct. 1995) Draft Bill Governing Collection Use and Disclosure of Personal Health Information, takes this concern on board and allows for research use where the individuals' names are protected. The worries of the historian about the need for preservation of primary data from asylums (David Marjot, TLS, 15 Sept. 1995) led to a response from the County Archivist of Surrey (David Robinson, 29 Sept. 1995), who cogently outlined the attempts being made by local authority record offices to save hospital records, and the problems involved in saving, sorting, and preserving the patient records, many of which are stored in appalling conditions. Claybury Asylum is a case in point, an important institution where, amongst others, Frederick Mott (1853-1926) worked and made the link between general paralysis of the insane and syphilis. Very few stray archives appear to have survived and only 3 volumes of patient records (currently at Ilford Library). Yet what riches were used only recently in the writing of its centenary history, Claybury: a century of caring 1893-1993 by Eric H Pryor. While it is disheartening that vast quantities of such hospital archives are being destroyed, the National Register of Archives' (NRA) digest of records that have found their way into repositories in 1994 helps to redress this picture. Of the 134 accessions of medical archives and manuscripts reported to the NRA, 48 related to hospitals, including mental hospitals, and a not inconsiderable number were deposits of long series of recor

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