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Medicines dispensed in Primary Care NHS Business Services Authority data

NHS Digital has established a monthly collection of patient-level data about medicines dispensed and claimed for in community settings (predominantly community pharmacy) from the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA).

The purpose of this data collection

This data, particularly when linked with other data held by NHS Digital, will:

  • improve patient safety by contributing to safer and more effective prescribing - for example, it can be linked to maternity and child health data to study the effect of medicines given during pregnancy
  • enable research and support clinical trials into the medicines used by patients
  • inform planning and assist in monitoring national priorities like anti-microbial resistance
  • improve services by helping to measure the uptake and effectiveness of new medicines

It is also hoped that this data can be used in research to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can read more in the NHSBSA Medicines Data Provision Notice issued by NHS England and NHS Improvement

How to access dispensed medicines data

This data is available to a wide range of customers, including researchers, academia and arm’s length bodies through NHS Digital’s Data Access Request Service (DARS).


A pseudonymised version of this data with demographics is now available for applications. It is also available in an identifiable format (with the NHS number visible) for those with a consented cohort.

Reference data

The NHSBSA supplies NHS Digital with tables of reference data relating to the 'Medicines dispensed in primary care' data set.

Below are the current reference data values and descriptions.

How the data is collected

Since July 2020 NHS Digital has established a collection of data from electronic and paper prescriptions submitted to the NHSBSA for reimbursement each month.

The data comprises prescriptions for medicines that are dispensed or supplied by community pharmacists, appliance contractors and dispensing doctors in England.

The data also includes:

  • prescriptions submitted by prescribing doctors, for medicines personally administered in England
  • prescriptions written in England and dispensed outside of England
  • prescriptions written in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey but dispensed in England

Data includes prescriptions issued by prescribers in:

  • general practice
  • community clinics
  • hospital clinics
  • dentists
  • community nursing services

There are around 90 to 100 million rows of patient-level data in this collection per month. Each row represents each medicine or appliance on a prescription and includes personal data (for example NHS number) and special category data (data concerning health).

There is no additional collection burden placed on front line staff as the data is held by NHSBSA. The data is limited to prescriptions submitted for reimbursement. Prescriptions issued but not dispensed and prescriptions dispensed or supplied but not claimed are not included.

The NHSBSA provide the following documents on their website that identify the quality control procedures in place and the limitations of them. The second link is a useful summary of the data and process flow of prescriptions data.

Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) Assessment: Prescription Data

QAAD Assessment  - Prescription Data: Appendix A

Protecting your data

You can read about how NHS Digital are the guardians of patient data, making sure it is protected and handled securely, on our Keeping patient data safe page.

Data Provision Notice

You can find further information about this data collection, including the relevant data provision notice, on the NHSBSA Medicines Data Provision Notice page.

Transparency information

You can find further NHS Digital transparency information on the Transparency notice: how we use your personal data page and specifically on the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) Medicines Data: GDPR information page.

Last edited: 20 January 2022 8:55 am