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Creating a new NHS England: NHS England and NHS Digital merged on 1 February 2023. More about the merger.

Data services

As the data custodian for the health and care system, data services has primary responsibility for driving data quality, linking data across the system, and providing reliable statistics and insights.

Guided by an absolute respect for data privacy and a commitment to empowering healthcare research and the UK life sciences sector.


Statutory custodian for health and care data for England, serving stakeholders across the UK. Enabling the health and social care system to make best use of its data to improve health care outcomes, efficiency of services and the impact of research.​

We aim to be the trusted data provider of choice for health and social care in England, while safeguarding the privacy of the people whose data we hold. We maximise the value of the data we collect and transform it in partnership with clinicians, while reducing the burden on data providers. 

Responsible person

Executive Director, Data services


  • to provide a range of data services nationally regionally and locally for health and social care providers, national entities, researchers, charities and citizens

  • our services include direct access to data for authorised users (via dissemination or trusted research environment), production of clinical indicators and statistics, dedicated support for research and clinical trials, data visualisation and open data, analytical services, expertise in clinical information standards, and delivery of data architecture to support digital transformation initiatives

What we do

Data Services aims to provide a timely, harmonised end-to-end approach to data within NHS Digital spanning collection, extraction and curation, promoting data security, privacy and regulations.

It comprises:

  • strategy and policy
  • data curation and open data
  • standards  
  • National Disease Registration Service (NDRS)
  • analysis and technology 
  • research and clinical trials 
  • large programmes

Products and services

Chief data architect

Lead: Jem Rashbass (interim)

Strategic insight and advice on data architecture and National Disease Registration Service to leadership of Data Services directorate.

Strategy and policy

Lead: James Austin (interim)

Driving the development and delivery of the Data Strategy to meet the priorities and needs of our commissioners, citizens and patients, the health and social care system, and life-science researchers. 

Developing and leading the key strategic partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders enabling the effective delivery of a customer-centred strategy.

Data curation and open data

Lead: Tomas Sanchez Lopez (interim Director) 

Data curation

Lead: Lucy Elliss-Brookes (interim)

Ensuring we receive high quality, timely and relevant data for analysis and reporting that underpins care provision, enabling customers and other data users to inform policy, commissioning, and research.

Reducing the burden of data collection, processing, and management across the data curation pathway, including the application of automation to support data collection and curation activities.

Maximising the potential utility of data from the point of collection throughout organisation-wide data use, enabling data to be linked at patient and record level and optimising data quality.

Open data and chief statistician

Lead: Chris Roebuck

Improving transparency in health and care data and ensuring our data and information is publicly available and trusted in the form of statistical publications, indicators and other outputs. 

Promoting broader use of Open Data by releasing existing data in timely, accessible, shareable, and innovative formats.

Data design and integration

Lead: Richard Irvine (interim)

Ensuring that through the live information flows we receive high quality timely data, improving the quality of data at submission and supporting analysis and reporting to enable quality care provision for all live (BAU) flows. 

Consulting on, agreeing and assuring well-defined datasets and collections that are currently being curated or will be curated.

Developing extractions of data from source, delivering complete, consistent and accurate data, and mapping to logical, coded and appropriate data models.


Lead: Alex Elias

Developing and maintaining the application and governance of standards required to process use of data to enable service delivery, including the curation of terminology and reference data, information standards for data onboarding and clinical standards for code ontology.

Maintaining and developing standardised codes, reflecting existing and transforming services, to identify who and where clinical services are provided and commissioned.

Ensuring health and care service providers can be accurately identified.

Analysis and technology

Lead: Steven Knight (interim Director)

Delivering the directorate’s Analytics Insights Service, and developing an Advanced Analytics function to develop expertise in a range of analytical approaches and techniques. 

Development of a technology function that will provide industry leading platforms and tools that critically underpin all the services we offer.


Lead: Tim Gentry

Developing and maintaining the systems, infrastructure and technical functionality to enable service delivery, including the secure management and development of systems that provide data into our services, teams and partners.

Research and clinical trials

Lead: Michael Chapman (Director) and Dani Breitinger-Blatt

Deliver user-centred services that ensure that the data collected and held in trust by NHS Digital is used securely, legally, and transparently for planning and research that improves the outcomes, experience, and efficiency of health and care.

Developing strategic relationships with key stakeholders, including academia, research funders, industry, research participants, and other interest groups.

Delivering improvements to our data access through the Data Access Programme, including integration of data access for the National Disease Registration Service with other NHS Digital processes. Oversight of major investments in new research services, including NHS DigiTrials and development of a national Trusted Research Environment Service.

National Disease Registration Service (NDRS)

Lead: Sarah Stevens

The National Disease Registration Service (NDRS) manage the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) and the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Disease Registration Service (NCARDRS).  

For these population based registration services we collect, curate and quality-assure data from every patient in England diagnosed and/or treated with these registerable conditions.

Our analysis teams provide expert analysis and interpretation of the data we collect, to understand the frequency, nature, cause and outcome often working in partnership with academic and third-sector colleagues.

NDRS is an international leader in population-based disease registration services, real-world clinical data, quality assurance, surveillance and monitoring. We also have significant skills in data science, analytics and complex data processing systems. 

We bring innovation and new technology to disease registration and analysis to enable advances in understanding and managing disease, improving patient outcomes.

Large programme delivery

Lead: vacancy

Delivering major data programmes across the directorate, including managing the COVID-19 data programme portfolio.

Skills fit for the future

Skills needed

Our talented and motivated teams need to be agile, innovative and work at pace combining robust development, with cutting edge methodology and professional delivery.

To enable us to move forward with delivery of world class data services, we are redesigning our operating model for Data services we need more:

  • user experience and customer engagement experts
  • advanced analytical skills and domain experts
  • flexible and talented coders
  • data scientists, data engineers and full-stack developers
  • data visualisation and design experts

To ensure we are set up to create the right data service wrap  and customer engagement, adapting to Agile ways of working  and ensuring fundamental programme managements underpins delivery of our transform portfolio we need more:

  • programme and project delivery experts
  • product and delivery managers
  • business and operational delivery data service specialists

Working with the best universities and industry to:

  • retain, retrain and reassign capable permanent staff
  • attract the best talent, innovation and applied research
  • encourage reciprocal placements and secondments and more higher degree placements
Indication of proportions of staff in the Data Services directorate as of 1 June 2022
Chart note

*Specialism within Business and Operational Delivery​.

** The charts now include resources forming part of the National Disease Registries Service. The comparative professions are not yet available at the time of publishing following the recent transfer of the service from Public Health England and they are shown as an 'interim' profession 'PHE'.​

The chart reflects indicative proportions based on the Target Staffing Model (TSM) v1.114 and forecasts which are subject to revision in line with business need. 

Proportions are as of 1 June 2022. TSM subject to review. Forecast size under review following recruitment controls.

Last edited: 19 July 2022 1:53 pm