New work to catalogue patient case notes

We’ve recently been awarded a grant from the Wellcome Trust’s Research Resources in Medical History (RRMH) programme to carry out a two-year project to catalogue patient case notes. This is exciting new work for us and, in fact, we don’t know of anyone else in the archive sector who has been cataloguing patient case notes in the kind of detail we will be. We aim to catalogue the four collections of Norman Dott’s case notes that we hold (approximately 26,600 dating from 1920 to 1960), and also produce a methodology that we can share with other archives that hold similar material.

Norman Dott’s case notes hold an enormous amount of information that can help us understand how the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders developed during the twentieth century. Professor Norman Dott (1897-1973) had an international reputation in his field: early in his career he was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship which enabled him to train in the United States under Harvey Cushing, father of modern neurosurgery. In 1924 he returned to Edinburgh and began a career in surgical neurology, holding posts at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children, and in 1937 he established the Royal Infirmary’s new Surgical Neurology Unit. He was the pioneer of many new procedures, for example intracranial aneurysm surgery, and he often designed innovative equipment to assist him in his work. He founded the Brain Injuries Unit at Bangour Hospital, West Lothian, during World War II, and became the University of Edinburgh’s first Professor of Surgical Neurology in 1947.

Although LHSA is experienced in providing long-term preservation care to our one million case notes (so far we’ve had five RRMH project grants to conserve about 30% of them), we’ve not been able to catalogue these items to open them up as a research resource until now. We hope that this work will increase the research demand for our case notes, and we will make sure that the use of the catalogue and of the case notes themselves is in line with legislation on patient confidentiality. (More information about patient confidentiality and access to LHSA-held records is available here.)

 Case notes that have been previously conserved, now to be catalogued in our new project
We recruited the Project Archivist last week and work will begin in early September – expect more blogs about the case note cataloguing once it gets underway! We’re delighted that the Wellcome Trust has agreed to fund this project, and thank them for their support.