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Data Access Request Service (DARS): process

A summary of the stages you'll need to navigate in your application for data.

The DARS process consists of the following stages:

Deletion of data


Before you begin the application process please contact us on 0300 303 5678 or email to discuss your data access requirements. 

Not all enquiries progress to the application stage - it may be that your requirement can be satisfied through existing published data.

The application process can take a long time. By discussing your data requirements now we can offer informed advice on:

  • what you can do to improve the quality of your application
  • whether your application is likely to be approved

Ultimately we want to save you time and effort.


The application stage sets out the nature of the requested data and the purpose for which it is being requested.

  1. Read through the pre-application checklist.
  2. Complete the application using the application guidance and submit together with supporting documentation.
  3. Your assigned Case Officer will review your application. If it contains the appropriate detail we will schedule an appointment to inform you of any remaining tasks that must be completed in order for your application to progress.

Some important elements of an application that often require further discussion include:

  • the legal basis under which you access the data
  • the security of your data handling and storage systems
  • technical feasibility - whether we can provide what is being requested
  • the purpose for wanting the data, including what benefits will be yielded for health and social care in the UK

The application will be referred back to you if more information is required in any of these areas. You will work closely with your Case Officer to capture the necessary detail in your application. You then resubmit your application with the additional information included.


The approval stage verifies that there is an appropriate legal basis and reason for accessing the requested data, that the benefits to health and social care in the UK are fully articulated and that appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure that you will store and handle data safely and securely.

All new applications, including those where a icon Data Sharing Agreement [351.62KB]  exists, will be assessed by the Information Asset Owner (IAO) or a representative and presented to the Independent Group Advising on the Release of Data (IGARD).

IGARD may recommend that a Data Sharing Agreement is produced, setting out further conditions that would need to be met before a Data Sharing Agreement could be signed, or recommend the application for rejection.

The following applications will be assessed and approved by the IAO and Director for Data Dissemination without reference to IGARD.

  1. Renewals - a request to access more of the same non-identifiable data that you already hold.
  2. Extensions - a request to hold the same non-identifiable data for longer.


  1. The Data Sharing Agreement is electronically signed by NHS Digital.
  2. In DARS Online, you review the Agreement, provide a purchase order (PO) number and then electronically sign the Agreement.
  3. The data, with patient objections upheld as appropriate, is produced, reviewed and signed-off by NHS Digital, or the data service access is granted.
  4. The data are made available either by secure file transfer or the HES Data Interrogation System.


We carry out data sharing audits to check that our customers are meeting the obligations in their contract and Data Sharing Agreement.

Deletion of data

All data must be deleted when a Data Sharing Agreement or icon Data Sharing Framework Contract [472.15KB] expires and is not renewed. We will send you a Certificate of Destruction for you to complete and return to us.

Further guidance is available in the security notes and in NHS Digital's data security policies.

Our service levels

Once we have accepted your application after its initial review, the application is subject to our service levels. We only pause the elapsed time when we require further detail, such as a more explicit articulation of the purpose, or when approvals are required from an external body (such as Approved Researcher status from ONS).

Our service response times, from the date that the application is accepted to the date that you sign the Agreement, are as follows:

14 working days - for standard requests, such as extensions to existing agreements
30 working days - for medium requests, such as tabulated data for small numbers suppressed
60 working days - for complex requests, including identifiable data across a series of datasets

Help and advice

For support and advice on the DARS process please contact us on 0300 303 5678 or email


Data Access Request Service (DARS): pre-application checklist

What you need to consider before applying for data.

Data Access Request Service (DARS): guidance notes on security

How to supply NHS Digital with the data security information we need to process your data request.

Have a question? Call us on 0300 303 5678 or contact

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