Consultation on changes to NHS Digital Prescribing and Medicines Statistical Publications

Closed 20 Sep 2019

Opened 31 Jul 2019

Results expected 20 Sep 2019

Feedback expected 31 Oct 2019


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 good opportunity for NHS Digital and NHSBSA 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 We Are Consulting

We are proposing a series of changes to our existing Prescribing and Medicines statistical outputs, which comprise of National Statistics, Official Statistics and Open Data releases. This will help us to better prioritise resources in developing and ‘adding value’ to our statistical products to align with the ambitions of our future operating model. This will involve creating and linking near real time flows of secure data from health and care providers, and providing clinicians and researchers with patient level insights as well as enabling system planners to plan services more effectively and improve patient care. 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 informed 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 implemented by NHS Digital and the NHSBSA in 2020.


  • All Areas


  • Anyone from any background


  • Information Governance