Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Observed

Newly registered elderly patients: who are they and why such delay in the transfer of their medical records?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 30 January 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:340
  1. Helen J Graham,
  2. Brian Livesley


    The time taken to transfer the records of elderly patients registering with a new general practice was investigated. Thirty five (5%) of a total of 671 patients aged 75 and over were entered as new patients on to the age-sex register of an urban group practice during one year. Twenty nine had moved into the area and six had changed their general practitioner for personal and other reasons. An average of 141 (range 71-296) days elapsed before dispatch of their medical records to the new practice. During this period an average of 3·5 (range 0-15) consultations with a general practitioner were recorded, indicating the need of such patients for medical care. The long delays were caused by the processing of medical records at the central register and the transfer of records between family practitioner committees and general practitioners. Delays were most apparent in the time taken for general practitioners to dispatch the necessary documents to the family practitioner committees, and these should be minimised.

    The use of a summary card written and updated by the general practitioner and retained by the patient would facilitate continuing care should patients change to a new practice. Meanwhile, assessment of elderly patients after registration with a new practice by a member of the primary health care team may identify problems before the records have been transferred and may help the resettlement of these high risk elderly patients.