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Publication of HSCIC register of approved data releases: clarification on points of public interest

April 04, 2014

Following the publication of the HSCIC register of approved data releases (on 3 April 2014) and subsequent public interest, which the HSCIC welcomes, we would like to clarify the following points:

Scope of the register of approved data releases

The register details all releases of data under data agreements approved by the HSCIC from the point it was established (1 April 2013) to 31 December 2013. This includes agreements originally approved by the predecessor organisation (The NHS Information Centre) but renewed by the HSCIC during the above period.

We are confident that the register covers all approved data releases within this scope, which is one of a number of commitments made by the HSCIC Board to ensure transparency and to build public trust. This register will now be published quarterly.

To be absolutely clear, the scope of the register covers all releases of data to organisations under a data agreement. These agreements set out specific standards such as what the data can and cannot be used for (its purpose), security requirements around storage, restrictions around linkage, onward sharing or publication, and its eventual deletion.

Review of data agreements approved before 1 April 2013

Sir Nick Partridge, a Non-Executive Director on the HSCIC Board and former Chief Executive of the Terence Higgins Trust, is conducting a review of data agreements committed to by the HSCIC's predecessor organisation, the NHS Information Centre, between 2005 and 31 March 2013.

The review will examine the arrangements that were in place for the release of data, and will provide insight and key observations that will allow the HSCIC to learn from its predecessor's experience and ensure the HSCIC's processes are as robust, open and transparent as possible.

The review will be made available to the HSCIC Board at the end of April 2014, to be discussed at its meeting on 15 May 2014, prior to a publication at the end of May 2014.

PA Consulting

As previously stated by the HSCIC in a statement on 3 March 2014 (link here). The NHS Information Centre (NHS IC) signed an agreement to share pseudonymised Hospital Episodes Statistics data with PA Consulting in November 2011. 

This included Hospital Episode Statistics on Admitted Patient Care (1999-00 to Provisional 2011-12), Outpatient (2003-4 to Provisional 2011-12) and A&E (2007-8 to Provisional 2011-12). This agreement lasted to November 2012 and was amended in December 2012 to extend to November 2015.

As the register of approved data releases relates to all data agreements and renewals approved by the HSCIC since its establishment on 1 April 2013, this agreement instead falls within the scope of the separate review of data agreements committed to by the HSCIC's predecessor organisation (The NHS Information Centre).

Sir Nick Partridge, a Non-Executive Director on the HSCIC Board and former Chief Executive of the Terence Higgins Trust, is conducting this review.

Police requests for data

Under the Data Protection Act (DPA), police are able to make requests to the HSCIC for information if they are investigating a serious crime. In most cases this relates to non-clinical data and where the police are trying to locate an individual suspected of serious crime, by requesting the geographical region of the individual's GP registration. This does not require a data agreement to be in place and therefore is not within the scope of the HSCIC register of approved data releases.

Such information is only ever released where the alleged crime is serious, such as rape, murder or an offence against children. The HSCIC assesses each of these requests under strict criteria to balance the public interest with the interests of the individual concerned.

Where these requests are approved, the HSCIC does not release individuals' addresses or details of their GP, even if this has been requested by police. Instead we provide the region where the individual is currently registered with a GP according to the records which we hold. Where the seriousness of the alleged crime does not meet the strict criteria, we refuse the request.

To insist on the release of clinical data, the police need a court order and the HSCIC never releases clinical information unless this court order exists. 

This information has previously been made public by the HSCIC in a Freedom of Information request and in statements to the media.

Release of data to HMRC

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) works with the HMRC to meet the requirement of the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB), which obliges that all four UK countries submit pay evidence as part of their pay review negotiations.

HSCIC supplies GP and Dentist Workforce data to HMRC, who then link the information to their Tax Return data and provide us with anonymised, aggregated salary information, which is published as part of the NHS Workforce statistics. The data supplied relates to professionals working in the NHS not to patients.

As with all of its activity, the HSCIC welcomes public scrutiny and discussion of the releases on this register, and the opportunity to clarify any points raised.

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