Changes to the Organisation Data Service (ODS) files

Closed 30 May 2014

Opened 18 Mar 2014

Feedback updated 25 Jul 2014

We asked

We asked you to comment on a series of changes we propose to make to the Organisation Data Service files. These need to be made because the current coding structure means that we will run out of available codes in the next few years. We provided a number of documents which explained the various changes, and the rationale behind them, in detail.

You said

You attended WebEx seminars and raised comments and questions, and you provided detailed comments on the documents we published.

We did

The responses to this closed consultation have now been reviewed. We have published an Addendum document, which explains all the ways that we have altered our proposals to take account of the feedback we received. Copies of the Addendum document can be found on the ODS web pages by cutting and pasting the following address into your browser: Alternatively you can email the ODS team at:

Results updated 24 Jul 2014

A link to the results, pubished on 22 July 2014, is provided below.



This consultation is now closed. Please see the Results section at the bottom of this page.

Comprehensive reference data for organisations that deliver health and social care has been maintained and published by a central service for the last twenty years. The data comprises authoritative national lists for a wide range of organisations of interest to the NHS, including a standard set of identification codes, a change history record, reference data to support NHS information systems and the relationships between the various organisations.

Over time, many aspects of the organisation data interface have become outdated or problematic in some way which has resulted in a number of long-standing issues: 

  • The approach of using defined sets of codes for defined sets of organisations is no longer sustainable:
    • It was designed for human readability and is now stifling innovation
    • Blocks of codes become “locked off” and unavailable for use
    • We are rapidly approaching code exhaustion
  • The current file specification is out-dated:
    • The file format is unable to support multiple relationships
    • There is no clear meta data to indicate organisation types and responsibilities
    • Suppliers are keyed in to an inflexible, flat file CSV format
  • There is a lack of standardisation in format and frequency of publication:
    • Although a “standard 27 field format” exists the actual content of files varies considerably
    • Variance results in lengthy processing for full file set
    • Quarterly, Monthly and in some cases weekly releases are produced


Why your views matter

The issues outlined above have now become severe enough that ODS will have to redesign the service we provide in order to ensure its continuation. In redesigning the service we will:

  • Replace structured codes with a true unique identifier with no in-built intelligence
  • Enable the data model to reflect modern NHS and Social Care
  • Modernise the delivery mechanism
  • Enhance the usability of the data
  • Publish data on a more regular basis
  • Support data linkage initiatives


The proposed changes to the service will potentially impact every organisation that makes use of ODS files.

We are seeking the views of anyone who makes use of ODS files on the proposed changes. As the changes are many and complex we have provided a suite of documents, along with supporting information, to explain the proposals.

Rather than asking specific questions through a survey, we would invite anyone who is interested to view the documents from the ODS web pages (see link below) and then to complete the comments form provided.


  • All Areas


  • Informatics Specialists
  • CIOs
  • Health IT System Suppliers
  • Heads of Information
  • Information Managers
  • IT Quality Assurance Managers
  • Data Quality Managers


  • Information Technology
  • Informatics
  • Information Standards
  • Reference Data