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Supporting open data and transparency

The benefits of open data

Open data, put simply, is data that can be accessed, used and shared, by anyone, for any purpose. Many organisations collect a broad range of data in order to perform their tasks: making this data publicly accessible contributes to the transparency agenda, which is important for:

  • improving outcomes and productivity in our public services
  • promoting higher quality and more efficient services, choice and accountability
  • encouraging economic growth - it enables the development of tools to support users, commissioners and providers of public services

Good open data should be easy to find, free to access and made available in a format that promotes its use. It should also be timely, accurate and well described. Organisations like the Open Data Institute and the Open Knowledge Foundation provide more information on open data, including ways to help assess quality and reliability.

How NHS Digital promotes open data

We recognise the huge opportunities that open data brings in:

  • increasing patient choice
  • improving patient outcomes
  • creating increased productivity
  • contributing to economic growth

All of our publicly accessible data is made available under the Open Government Licence, which encourages the use and re-use of public sector data. We are leading the way in health and social care open data and, wherever possible, releasing the data underpinning all of our statistical publications to encourage others to make use of the breadth and depth of data available. We are also ensuring that our published statistical data is made available in open formats, typically machine-readable comma separated variable (csv) files, to enable the frictionless re-use of our analysis.

Open data is publicly accessible; therefore it must not contain any information liable to identify any one individual. Our published statistics are carefully anonymised or aggregated in line with NHS Digital's publication policy on small numbers, the Anonymisation Standard for the publication of health and social care data, the National Statistician's Guidance ' Confidentiality of Official Statistics' and any specific regulations regarding disclosive or sensitive data which may apply (for example the HES analysis guide). Our website provides more information about how we look after your health and care information.

Access open health data

Our open data is available through a range of channels, including our own website and through data.gov.uk, the UK government's portal for open data which contains nearly 25,000 data sets from all central government departments and a number of other public sector bodies and local authorities.

In addition, some larger datasets can be accessed from the UK Data Archive, and our publications are also available from the UK National Statistics Publications Hub.

We make a broad range of data available

Statistical publications

We currently produce over 250 publications each year - the vast majority of these contain statistical data. In most cases, the data is provided in formatted -Excel spreadsheets, as well as machine-readable comma separated variable (csv) text files. Our publications can be found in our publication catalogue, as well as in other tools such as the Indicator Portal.

Freedom of Information (FOI) and ad-hoc requests

Data produced in response to FOI requests is made available to the public and can be downloaded from the FOI Disclosure Log. We also process many other ad-hoc requests for data - all of these bespoke tabulations are available from the supplementary information page.

Organisation and reference data

Datasets on health and social care organisations can be accessed through NHS Digital's Organisation Data Service, which maintains and provides the reference data required for the health service to operate. Public-facing data on NHS organisations is also made available through NHS Choices, who provide downloads as well as a syndication service.

Corporate data

To promote transparency, all government organisations are required to publish certain details relating to what we spend and our structure.

Have a question? Call us on 0300 303 5678 or contact enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk.

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