Records management is the systematic control of an organisation's records, throughout their life cycle, in order to meet operational business needs, statutory and fiscal requirements, and community expectations. Effective management of information allows fast, accurate and reliable access to records, ensuring the timely destruction of redundant information and the identification and protection of vital and historically important records. Effective records management involves efficient and systematic control of the creation, storage, retrieval, maintenance, use and disposal of records, including processes for capturing and maintaining evidence.

Systematic management of records allows organisations to:

  • know what records they have, and locate them easily
  • increase efficiency and effectiveness
  • make savings in administration costs, both in staff time and storage
  • support decision making
  • be accountable
  • achieve business objectives and targets
  • provide continuity in the event of a disaster
  • meet legislative and regulatory requirements
  • protect the interests of employees, clients and stakeholders

The guiding principles of records management are to ensure that information is available when and where it is needed, in an organised and efficient manner, and in a well maintained environment.

The importance of good records management has been brought into sharp focus by the 2007 Historical Abuse Systemic Review of Residential Schools and Children's Homes in Scotland by Tom Shaw ('the Shaw Report'). The recommendations of the Shaw Report and the subsequent 2009 review by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland led to the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 (PR(S)A) in March 2011.

The Act makes provision about the management of public records by named public authorities. Provisions include the preparation of a Records Management Plan (RMP) setting out and evidencing proper arrangements for the management of the authority's public records, and its submission for agreement by the Keeper. Each Board's Health Records and Corporate Records Management Policies should provide further detail concerning standards for the management of records. NHS Borders has a single Records Management Policy that applies to both health records and corporate records.

The PR(S)A defines a record as "Anything in which information is recorded in any form". A record can be recorded in computerised or manual form or in a mixture of both. Data can be held on a range of media, including text, sound, image, and/or paper. Increasingly records are being kept on electronic and document management systems. Records may include such things as hand-written notes; emails and correspondence; radiographs and other imaging records; printouts from monitoring equipment; photographs; videos; and tape-recordings of telephone conversations.