Consultation on changes to NHS Digital Prescribing and Medicines Statistical Publications

Closed 18 May 2018

Opened 30 Mar 2018

Feedback updated 6 Jul 2018

We asked

We asked for your support in developing our existing publications to align with the NHS BSA data releases and expand and increase the usability of prescribing data as new data sources become available.

You said

The responses received in the main supported our proposals with one response stating our proposals “need to be bolder!”. 

The only concern raised was about the CCG level prescribing to be discontinued. However, although NHS Digital are discontinuing supplying the data in it’s current format through iView, the NHS BSA will continue to provide CCG level data as requested. We will also work together to determine how to make richer CCG level data available to the public in the future.

You highlighted the following key points in response to our proposals:

  • Support eliminating confusion by merging similarly based publications
  • Essential to keep up with system changes (both NHS and Data)
  • Need to make use of more flexible, accessible and up to date data
  • Improvements in accessibility may generate more interest
  • Topic themed alignment would allow a bigger platform for media coverage to be developed

Therefore, we will take the following steps to support these proposals as detailed in the We Did section.

We did

CCG level prescribing in iView to be discontinued

The CCG level prescribing data in iView was updated for the last time in June 2018. CCG level prescribing data will still be available from the NHS BSA through their Information Services Portal (ISP) or by requesting the data direct from them. The CCG and older PCT level data currently published in iView will still be available for reference purposes until 2020.

Merge Prescription Cost Analysis (PCA), and the Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community into one annual publication

The Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community is a National Statistics series that mainly repeats and expands the information made available earlier in the year as part of the Prescription Cost Analysis National Statistics series. Following the user consultation and through analysis of usage information and discussion with users, we have identified the user base would have its needs well met by the extra information being released earlier as tables of data, together with information around quality, rather than waiting for a second report to become available with more in depth commentary that repeats previously released figures.

In June 2018 we will publish the last in the series of the Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community. This will be the set of appendix data tables without the contextual commentary and analysis.

In March 2019 the PCA publication will be the single National Statistics publication containing:

  • A set of data tables analysing the latest calendar year of data
  • A set of ten year trend data tables
  • A summary set of percentage changes for the latest year and last ten years by BNF section
  • The set of appendix tables and the ‘Free and charged prescribing’ tables that are normally incorporated in the Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community publication
  • A data quality statement with supporting definitions

We aim to in the future:

  • Introduce age breakdowns and patient numbers
  • Produce granular analysis of PCA data below England level

General Pharmaceutical Services to be published sooner

The General Pharmaceutical Services publication, which is also a National Statistics series, will be brought forward from November to August 2018, further benefitting users through the earlier release of data.

Prescribing of Diabetes to align with other diabetes outputs

The Diabetes publication will move from August to November. This is to align its financial year based data with the latest financial year based data from QOF and the National Diabetes Audit. In addition the publications will all fall on or around World Diabetes Day helping to increase the focus on all the relevant Diabetes data available from NHS Digital.

Prescribing Costs in Hospitals and the Community to move to new data sources

The aim over the coming years is to transition the report to new data sources that are becoming available. The primary care prescribing component will be sourced from the NHS BSA’s new ePACT2 system which brings a number of data improvements, the main one being that prescribing by Dentists will also be included to ensure the whole of primary care prescribing is captured in the costs.

The HPAI data set from IQVIA will continue to be used for secondary care reporting however we will look to add more contextual information alongside it on medicine costs as a new NHS secondary care medicine collection becomes available over the next 2 years.

The result will give users a more comprehensive set of data on the cost of medicines paid by the NHS. There will be a step change in the figures over time as we move to the new data sources, however the aim will be to engage with our customers again at this point in time and create a continually improving publication as these new data sets become available.

Practice Level Prescribing in England to remain the same

NHS Digital will work with the NHS BSA to align their release dates for these products resulting in NHS Digital publishing the data in a more timelier manner in the future.

NICE Technology Appraisals in the NHS in England (Innovation Scorecard) to remain the same

Developments to the Innovation Scorecard are overseen by a Strategic Working Group and Technical Working Group with representatives from key stakeholder organisations such as NICE, Office for Life Sciences, NHS England and industry representatives. Work is on-going with users to improve usability and functionality in association with delivering the requirements from the Accelerated Access Review.

Prescribing Measures to be revised

NHS Digital will work with the NHS BSA to revise the ASTRO-PUs and STAR-PUs with the aim of publishing updated figures later in the summer of 2018.

A review of the ADQs will also take place to determine whether these should be revised or replaced with a more appropriate prescribing measure by the end of the year.



NHS Digital produces around 300 statistical publications a year.

These draw on survey data, administrative data, data from clinical systems and aggregate collections. Use of health and care statistics helps those involved to manage the system more effectively, commission better services, understand public health trends in more detail, develop new treatments and monitor the safety and effectiveness of care providers.


NHS Digital has a vision for enabling more insight to be drawn from data to improve health and care. For prescribing and medicines we will deliver and facilitate analysis of more granular data, data linkage and statistical analysis of linked data. We will make anonymous outputs available as open data, while other data outputs will be shared under contract with specific organisations for the benefit of health can care where there is a legal basis and our robust approval standards are met.


The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) at the same time is committed to moving from making data available to producing Official Statistics.


The increased use of the Electronic Prescription Service and developments by the NHSBSA in collaboration with NHS Digital mean existing prescribing datasets are becoming richer with patient related information.


All of this represents a large opportunity for NHS Digital and NSHBSA to remove duplication in our outputs to deliver the maximum benefit to health and care from our combined data and analysis expertise.


Together, we are working in partnership to deliver a patient level Primary Care medicines dataset through NHS Digital’s Data Access Request Service (DARS) by February 2020.  

DARS was established to enable access for organisations, including clinicians, researchers, commissioners, and commercial companies. Access is provided to patient level data for organisations that :-

  • are legally permitted to have access to the data
  • will look after it according to Information Governance (IG) requirements
  • hold it securely
  • will use it to improve health and care services
  • not use it solely for commercial purposes

In terms of our statistical and analytical plans going forward, NHS Digital will:

  • deliver and facilitate analysis of more granular data, data linkage and statistical analysis of linked data;
  • make anonymous outputs available as open data;
  • identify new opportunities in the data through linkage to wider health data;
  • ensure coherence, consistency and value across our outputs; and
  • reduce duplication of existing aggregate outputs

NHSBSA will:

  • become the National and Official statistical producer for aggregate primary publications of prescribing data it currently makes available.


Together, we will improve signposting to alternative data sources of prescribing related data.


The NHSBSA have recently published a publication strategy that provides further clarity on how they aim to become the recognised source for prescribing data and associated publication releases. This will enable NHS Digital to focus resources on publications and analysis that link the patient level prescribing data to a range of health datasets to try and target specific health outcomes and promote medication safety.

Why your views matter

We are proposing a series of changes to our existing Prescribing and Medicines data and statistical outputs which will help us to better prioritise resources while developing our statistical products to align with the NHS BSA and better meet the needs of our users. We are making the changes necessary to enable us to produce high quality official statistics suited to support a modern health and care system and help make better decisions.

The aim of this consultation is to seek views on the set of changes we hope to make in the near future and also to inform users of some medium to longer term plans for further improvements. All responses collected will be treated confidentially in line with the Data Protection act, personal details of respondents will not be associated with any published results of the survey or shared with anyone outside of NHS Digital.

When we consider the results, greater weight will be given to external users and to those who identify themselves or the organisation they are submitting on behalf of. The consultation should take between 5 and 10 minutes to complete.

What happens next

The responses to this consultation will be analysed and a preferred option will be adopted by NHS Digital as soon as is practically possible.


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