Updated May 2020: no changes made
Next update scheduled: August 2020.

The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK. As part of our work, we apply for and are granted access to data about patients and their experiences in the health service, to enable us to conduct in-depth analysis for specific, approved projects. Having access to patient data allows the Health Foundation to analyse the impact of new initiatives and to gain insights on trends in people’s health and care in order to drive learning and improvement.

The data about patients we receive tells us about when they have visited hospitals, their GP practices, operations and treatments they have received, for example, and we also receive data about patients’ experiences in other health and social care services such as care homes and the 111 non-emergency phone number for medical help.

We are only able to gain access to these data after following careful data application procedures laid down by data suppliers. These data suppliers include NHS Digital, NHS England and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to access the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. We must demonstrate:

  • That we have a sufficient legal basis for accessing and using the data, under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • That we have sufficient, robust, informative governance systems in place to look after the data, and that these are regularly tested and audited
  • That at the end of the project, we are able to securely destroy the data

All staff, contractors and other researchers that support our work by working on these data in our Secure Data Environment must undergo Information Governance training, and sign an appropriate Non-Disclosure Agreement promising to maintain the confidentiality of the data.

All the information we hold on patients is de-personalised, which means that patients are not directly identifiable from the data. We never receive names, addresses or NHS numbers. We only hold data about patients and their journey in the health service to do our analysis. Examples include data about admission length, diagnosis codes, and some basic demographic code such as age and gender. More information about patient data and how they can be used for analysis can be found at the Understanding Patient Data website.
 

Maintaining data security

Updated: April 2020

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are allowing our analysts to access our Secure Data Environment from their homes, following the government’s guidelines to close offices and for employees to work from home. We are undertaking a number of projects (see below) for which we plan to publish findings in the near future. Find out more about the Health Foundation's response to COVID-19.

Staff have been provided with special equipment which will allow them to securely log on to our system, where we store patient data that we receive from the health service. Staff have also been provided with additional training so that they are prepared to access data safely; and they have also signed an additional agreement to acknowledge that they understand how to access patient data safely when working from home. They will be able to raise any concerns about the security of their equipment, or the data they can access, with their team’s data manager, in the usual way. All patient data we hold is de-personalised, individuals cannot be identified from the data.

To enable this way of working, we have undertaken an additional and robust risk assessment and completed a Data Protection Impact Assessment. We have made changes to our documented procedures to reflect this new arrangement. In doing so, we have acted as organisations such as the Information Commissioner’s Office would expect. If you have any queries, please do contact us at data.management@health.org.uk .

Who at the Health Foundation uses patient data?

Improvement Analytics Unit

The Improvement Analytics Unit is a partnership between NHS England and the Health Foundation, which provides rigorous data analysis to determine whether new ways of delivering care are having an impact.

The Improvement Analytics Unit analyses patient data through the Secure Data Environment. All staff with access to the environment, whether employed by The Health Foundation or NHS England, have to complete information governance training and are contractually bound to maintain patient confidentiality. View a list of publications where we have used data about patients

In-house analytics team

The In-house analytics team use data about patients for a variety of projects. For example, we are investigating households in which members of the same family suffer from multiple health conditions, and how often they request help from the NHS. We are also looking into the relationship between mental and physical health conditions; mental health services and their take up by young people, and menstrual pain in women and their access to health services, and we are looking at how well patients with diabetes are managed by the health service. View a list of publications where we have used data about patients

Economics team

The economics team use data about patients to look at forecasting future demand caused by having a condition (for example diabetes) or a combination of conditions and the pressure this puts on the health service in terms of activity and costs, as well as looking at the cost of providing services in hospitals (e.g. routine operations). View our publications
 

Data we hold

Dataset

Description

Purpose

Access

Status

Hospital Episode Statistics

De-personalised hospital records including inpatient, outpatient and accident & emergency data for the whole of England.

We use these data to analyse the quality of care delivered by the NHS, funding pressure, health inequalities and productivity.

These data are only processed by Health Foundation staff and an award holder from our office.

Active

Mental Health Services data

De-personalised secondary care records of children, young people and adults who are in contact with mental health, learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorder services.

We use these data to explore the determinants of mental health activity and its costing structure.

These data are processed by staff working in Improvement Analytics Unit (Health Foundation and NHS England), In-house analytics team and Economics team

Active

Patient episode database for Wales

De-personalised hospital records including inpatient, outpatient and accident & emergency data for Wales.

We use these data to analyse the quality of care delivered by the NHS, funding pressure and productivity.

These data are only processed by The Health Foundation staff.

Active

Secondary Use Services hospital data

De-personalised hospital records including inpatient, outpatient and accident & emergency data for England. For some local areas, these data are linked to information about an intervention (e.g. new treatment) they have received. This includes when individuals moved to care homes and the characteristics of their care home, or if they received assistance through an integrated care team.

We use these data in the Improvement Analytics Unit to provide rapid feedback on the progress being made by local health care projects in England to improve care and efficiency.

These data are processed by the Improvement Analytics Unit team, including staff from NHS England and the Health Foundation.

Active

Clinical Practice Research Datalink

This database contains de-personalised records about patients and their visits to GP practices, including diagnoses made and treatments prescribed, as well as referrals to secondary care.

We use these data for a number of projects, including:

  • Looking at households where more than one person has an illness, and how they access health services

     

  • Examining access to treatment for diabetes patients

     

  • Investigating how young people can access mental health services

     

  • How do women seek help with menstrual pain?

     

  • Forecasting future health service demand in primary care

     

  • International comparisons of high-cost treatments (e.g. hip replacements)

     

These data are only processed by the Health Foundation staff and occasional contractors at our office.

Active

Linked primary and secondary care data for Islington

Linked de-personalised general practice and hospital data about patients with long-term conditions in Islington.

We use these data to study patient activation in Islington.

These data are only processed by Health Foundation staff.

Expired

Linked primary and secondary care data for Tower Hamlets

Linked de-personalised general practice and hospital data about patients aged over 50 and at high risk of emergency admission.

We use these data to evaluate the WEL integrated care pathway in Tower Hamlets CCG.

These data are processed by Health Foundation staff and a contractor from our office.

Active

Primary care data for the Valentine Health Practice, Woolwich

De-personalised general practice data belonging to patients registered with the Valentine Health Practice in Woolwich.

We use these data to support improvement activity in the Valentine Health Practice in Woolwich.

These data are only processed by Health Foundation staff.

Expired

NHS 111 and out-of-hours GP services linked to A&E data.

Linked de-personalised data about NHS 111 callers, and their activity in out-of-hours GP and emergency departments for children and young people in north west London.

We use these data for our analysis into the effect of clinical input during a 111 call on emergency department attendance.

These data are only processed by Health Foundation staff.

Active

Minimum master patient index

De-personalised GP registration and patient characteristics records for the UK about when patients registered / de-registered with a GP, month and date of birth, gender and Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) of where the patient lives. For some local areas, this data is linked to information about an intervention they have received. This includes when individuals moved to care homes and the characteristics of their care home, or if they received assistance through an integrated care team.

We use these data in the Improvement Analytics Unit to provide rapid feedback on the progress being made by local health care projects in England to improve care and efficiency.

These data are processed by the Improvement Analytics Unit team, including staff from NHS England and Health Foundation.

Active

Because all patient information we hold is de-personalised, we cannot identify individuals from the data. For this reason, we cannot respond to subject access requests, or apply one's 'right to be forgotten'. To find out more about what we mean by depersonalisation, please visit this resource on Understanding Patient Data. For information about your rights concerning data, you can visit the Information Commissioners website.

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