Explaining why we are legally allowed to collect health and care information.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012
NHS Digital is also known as the Health and Social Care Information Centre. We were set up by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. One of our specific legal responsibilities is to be the safe haven of health and care information. We collect data and information about people using health and care services in England and in some cases Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This information is needed to run the health service.
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and NHS England, can tell us to collect and process information on specific topics, or set up information systems to collect information. This means they can see, for example, whether policies are working or which treatments are most effective. These orders are called 'directions'.
Other health and care organisations and local authorities can also ask us to collect information for them, if they are legally allowed to view this information.
When we are told or asked to collect certain information, meaning that health and care organisations legally have to share it with us, we publish 'data provision notices', telling these organisations what we need to collect from them.
In some cases, our collections rely on your consent. This means you would be asked before your details were included in a specific collection. You can change your mind, 'withdraw your consent', at any time by telling the organisation who asked for your consent.