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GPES data for pandemic planning and research (COVID-19)

NHS Digital’s fortnightly collection of GP data will provide data to support vital planning and research into coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to increased demand on general practices, including an increasing number of requests to provide patient data to inform planning and support vital research on the cause, effects, treatments and outcomes for patients of the virus.  

To support the response to the coronavirus outbreak, NHS Digital has been legally directed to collect and analyse healthcare information about patients, including from their GP record, for the duration of the coronavirus emergency period, under the COVID-19 Public Health Directions 2020 (COVID-19 Direction). All GP practices in England are legally required to share data with NHS Digital for this purpose under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. More information about this requirement is contained in the Data Provision Notice issued by NHS Digital to GP practices.

This collection will reduce burden on general practices, allowing them to focus on patient care and support the coronavirus response.

What the data will be used for

Data will be analysed and shared by NHS Digital for coronavirus (COVID-19) research purposes including: 

  • carrying out vital research into treatments and vaccines for the virus, including clinical trials 
  • identifying coronavirus trends and risks to public health  
  • diagnosing and monitoring the effects of coronavirus  
  • controlling and helping to prevent the spread of the virus  
  • planning and providing health, social care and other public services to the public  
  • helping clinicians, scientists, public health bodies and the government to provide guidance and develop policies to respond to the outbreak 
  • monitoring and managing the outbreak  

How the data will be collected

Data will be collected using the General Practice Extraction service (GPES). This collection is supported by the British Medical Association (BMA), Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and National Data Guardian (NDG) and will collect a specific set of patient data from GP practices in England on a fortnightly basis. 

Who we will share the data with

NHS Digital is the national safe haven for patient data in England and we collect, analyse, publish and share healthcare data safely, securely and appropriately as part of our statutory functions. 

Data will only be made available in response to appropriate requests from data applicants who need it for coronavirus purposes including to improve care, disease monitoring, planning and research. All requests for access to the data will be made through the NHSX Single Point of Contact for COVID-19 requests process, which will triage and prioritise requests with NHS Digital, Health Data Research UK and the National Institute of Health Research. Fill in the Access Request Form for GPES Data for Pandemic Planning and Research (COVID-19) and email it with your request to this address: [email protected] 

NHS Digital will involve the BMA and RCGP in all requests before sharing any data, to consider the views of the profession. The scope and role of the Professional Advisory Group are included within the Terms of Reference. This group currently advises only on the release of GP Data for Pandemic Planning and Research. These Terms of Reference will be updated and extended to cover the GP Data for Planning and Research at the point when this data set is available for organisations to request. 

Data which is shared by NHS Digital is subject to robust rules relating to privacy, security, and confidentiality. Safeguards built into our processes include:

  • all requests will be managed through our Data Access Request Service
  • applications for record level data will also be subject to independent scrutiny via the Independent Group Advising on the Release of Data (IGARD)
  • only the minimum amount of data needed to meet the specific coronavirus purpose will be made available
  • organisations using this data will need to have a clear legal basis to do so for coronavirus purposes
  • national data opt-outs will be considered on a case by case basis but may not apply during the emergency period due to the public interest and legal requirements in sharing certain data. For example, in the case of the Shielded Patients List, the opt-out was not applied due to the public interest in those patients receiving advice and support

The data collection will continue until 30 September 2020 and will be reviewed before then. If there is a continued need for the data for coronavirus purposes it will continue with 6 monthly reviews until the expiry of the Direction, which is currently 31 March 2022.

We will publish information about the data that we share in our Data Release Register.

For more information about how NHS Digital is processing GP data to support the response to coronavirus, see our GPES COVID-19 transparency notice.

Guidance for GP practices

General practices should comply with the Data Provision Notice by registering their participation on CQRS in the normal way.

The BMA and RCGP are asking all general practices as a matter of urgency to complete this task as soon as they can, so that the benefits of this initiative can start as quickly as possible. 

General practices have a legal duty to be transparent and to provide patients with transparency information under GDPR about the data they are sharing with NHS Digital.

General practices therefore also need to update their transparency notices on their websites to include details of this collection. NHS Digital has produced a template general practice transparency notice which GPs can use to do this. You can also link to this by publishing the following statement and link on your website:

This practice is supporting vital coronavirus (COVID-19) planning and research by sharing your data with NHS Digital. For more information about this see the General Practice Transparency Notice for GPES Data for Pandemic Planning and Research (COVID-19).

Guidance for analysts and users of the data

This guidance provides an overview of the dataset for analysts and other users of the GPES Extract for Pandemic Planning and Research that will provide information for coronavirus (COVID-19) planning and research.

Further information

Last edited: 27 February 2023 2:05 pm