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Data Access Request Service (DARS) guidance

Track your application via DARS online and browse the application guidance catalogue.

Log in to DARS online

We've developed a range of materials to help you make the most of our Data Access Request Service (DARS).

Log in to DARS online 

Contact us

If you wish to discuss your requirements and to obtain a login, please email: [email protected]

Standards of information expected in a data access application

Review of current DARS standards

As a result of an amendment to section 97 of the Health and Social Care Act, NHS Digital are reviewing all current DARS standards and will, if necessary, update these standards to ensure alignment with this amendment.

You do not have to action anything at this time.

NHS Digital has produced guidance on the information expected in the various sections of a DARS application, named ‘Standards’.

For each ‘Standard’ there is written guidance covering important items to consider when writing your application and, where available, an accompanying video, both accessible via the table below.

Title/name of standard


Last updated

Term of Data Sharing Agreement


9 August 2022

Data Controllers


24 July 2019

Data Processors


24 July 2019

Security Assurance


16 April 2021

Data Protection Act Registration


24 July 2019

Data Minimisation


24 July 2019

Patient Objections


24 July 2019

Objective for Processing


24 July 2019

Processing Activities 

v1.0 14 August 2019 

Expected Outcomes   

v1.0 14 August 2019 

Expected Measurable Benefits


24 July 2019

Commercial Purpose


23 March 2023

Special Conditions


24 July 2019

Ethical Approval


24 July 2019

Duty of Confidentiality

v1.0 26 September 2019
GDPR Consent v1.0 24 July 2019

Sub-Licencing and Onward Sharing


24 July 2019

Transparency (fair processing)


24 July 2019

Territory of Use


24 July 2019


Find more information about DARS and how to use it by watching our guidance videos:

How to make an application


View a transcript of this video

Slide 1 – Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) Webinar (Title Page)

Welcome to this webinar with Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator Data Set. 

My name is Emily Jackson and I'm a Senior Information Analyst at NHS Digital. I will be talking you through information on our available DARS product. 

Please view this webinar before making your DARS application.

Slide 2 - Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) – Overview

What is the Summary Hospital level Mortality Indicator, or SHMI?

SHMI compares the actual number of patients who died following hospitalization, with the number that would be expected to die on the basis of average England figures.

The calculations take into account the characteristics of a patient treated at different trusts such as their age, gender, condition they're in hospital for and underlying conditions they have.

It covers non-specialist acute NHS trusts and includes deaths which occurred either in hospital or within 30 days of discharge. 

Independent sector providers, specialist trusts, mental health trusts and community trusts are not included.

The SHMI gives an indication of whether a trusts mortality ratio is as expected, higher than expected or lower than expected. 

It is calculated using the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data for Inpatients, linked to Death Registrations data from the Office for National Statistics. 

The SHMI is published by NHS Digital as a National Statistic on a monthly basis.

Each publication reports on discharges within a 12 month period.

Slide 3 – Data Quality

Before requesting data, we recommend reviewing the data quality sections of our monthly publications which provide information on coverage and the accuracy and reliability of the data.

We also suggest reviewing the data quality information for the HES data and Death Registrations data which are used to create the SHMI data set.

Slide 4 – SHMI - product available through DARS

The SHMI data set may be useful to you if you have an interest in analysing mortality outcomes following hospitalization, or if you work with hospital trusts to investigate the SHMI data.

However members of staff requiring access to the SHMI data for their own trust, should apply to the SHMI extract service rather than the DARS service.

Further information on the SHMI extract service is available on the SHMI home page.
The SHMI dataset is a record level dataset, with some fields taken directly from the HES Inpatient data set, and other fields calculated specifically for inclusion in the SHMI dataset.

There is one record in the data set for each finished provider spell. This is a continuous period of time spent as a patient within a single trust. 

Slide 5 – SHMI – product available through DARS (continued)

The data set is pseudonymised, but does include unique fields such as the HES episode key (EPIKEY), which could potentially be used for linkage to other data sets, if the appropriate permissions are in place to allow this.

The SHMI dataset is used to produce a monthly National Statistics publication and is only released after the corresponding publication.

Each dataset covers discharges in a three-year period, and is derived using a combination of finalized and provisional HES data.

We publish on an approximate five month lag so, for example, data up to March 2019 would be available from mid-August.

When presenting or disseminating our data, we ask that you follow the same suppression rules that we use on our own publications.
This prevents the disclosure of identities or information about individuals. 

All counts, except those at a national level, are rounded to the nearest five, with any counts between one and seven inclusive replaced with an asterisk.

Full details of the SHMI suppression methodology are available on our website.

Slide 9 – Further reading and useful links

This slide contains useful links to further information on DARS and SHMI.

Please refer to these for more detailed information, such as guidance on the interpretation of the SHMI and full details of the methodology used to create the SHMI data set.

Slide 10 – Contact Us 

If you have any further questions please get in touch at [email protected].

Thank you for listening.

Guidance on applying for General Practice Workforce Data Set through DARS

View a transcript of this video

Slide 1 – General Practice Workforce Data Set Webinar (Title Page)

Welcome to this webinar on the General Practice Workforce data set.

My name is Kate Parkyn and I'm a Senior Information Analyst at NHS Digital.

I will be taking you through information on our available DARS product.

Please view this webinar before making your DARS application.

Slide 2 - General Practice Workforce Data Set – Overview

The General Practice Workforce data set is made up of record level data, from a quarterly collection about the General Practice Workforce, in what are considered traditional high street General Practices.

This Workforce includes GP’s, Nurses, Direct Patient Care staff filling other clinical roles and Administrative staff.

The data set includes information about the individual themselves, where they are working and the work they are doing.  

It includes staff providing services specifically for what is defined as a traditional General Practice, these are only for what the typically thought of as a high street family doctor surgery.

The data set doesn't currently include primary care staff providing services at other locations, such as educational establishments or specialist care centres. Also not all doctors with the General Practice specialty are recorded in this data, and some are instead included in NHS Workforce statistics and the independent health care provider Workforce statistics.

Replacing another earlier collection, the current record level data collection began in September 2015 using the primary care web tool, the PCWT, and 4 Health Education England region's own tools.
GP Registrar data came from a combination of these and the electronic staff record system. However since June 2018, this has come solely from Health Education England's Trainee Information System, known as TIS.

By early 2019, all PCWT and HEE tool users had been migrated to the National Workforce Reporting system, the NWRS.

The General Practice Workforce data is extracted quarterly in March, June, September and December from the NWRS and TIS and is not refreshed.
It is published quarterly as part of the General Practice Workforce series.

Please look at the publication before making a DARS application as we may already have produced the information you're interested in.  

Slide 3 – Data Quality

Before requesting data, we recommend viewing the Data Quality statements that form part of our quarterly publications.

This will give an indication of the coverage and validity of tables and fields you may want to access.

Data completion is improving, and estimations are made for Practices providing no records, and for any records submitted with their hours missing.

The process for this is detailed in the publication data quality statements.

There has also been work done to improve the collection of GP locum data and since December 2017, additional data has been collected in NWRS in the Infrequent Locums module.

Work is ongoing to increase submissions and improve quality and recent data will likely be more complete than that extracted previously.

Slide 4 – General Practice Workforce Data Set – product available through DARS

This data set may be useful to you if you have an interest in Workforce Planning or the changing nature of the Workforce.

The product will be provided in a flat table format and you'll be able to specify your desired fields in your application.

The data will be available from September 2015 to the most recent published quarter.

Slide 5 – General Practice Workforce Data Set – product available through DARS (continued)

Some fields in the data set contain unique data items which support data linkage, including GP’s registration numbers and Practice codes.

Linkage between the General Practice Workforce and other data sets can be discussed during the application process.

Data were initially extracted twice yearly from September 2015. This changed to quarterly for GP’s in September 2016 and for Nurses, Direct Patient Care and Administrative staff in September 2017.

Each quarterly data set contains the Workforce data as at the specific extraction date.
We publish the data around six weeks after this date, at which point it will become available through DARS.

When presenting or disseminating any General Practice Workforce data, we ask that you follow any direction provided by us to prevent the disclosure of identities or personal data.

Specific suppression rules, or limits on the data we provide, will be discussed as part of considering each application.

Slide 6 – Further reading and useful links

This slide contains useful further information on DARS, the General Practice Workforce data set and the National Workforce reporting system.

Please feel free to have a read at your leisure.

Agreement breaches

All organisations that gain approval to receive data from NHS Digital are subject to the terms set out within a specific Data Sharing Agreement (DSA) and the Data Sharing Framework Contract (DSFC). There may be an occasion when an organisation believes that they have not acted in accordance with these terms. In these circumstances it is important that the organisation acts immediately, to firstly control/stop the activity and then to contact the Data Access Request Service. NHS Digital will provide a confirmation receipt of this contact, so if you do not receive one please contact DARS directly (as per section 4.1.8 of the DSFC). You may also be required to undertake additional actions as outlined within the Data Security Protection Toolkit (DSPT).

In such circumstances NHS Digital will look to establish the details of what has happened, whether this constitutes a breach of agreement, the level of seriousness and what actions should be taken.

Ultimately a breach of the agreement(s) could result in the need to destroy the data held and the termination of the DSA and the DSFC. This is clearly a position that all would wish to avoid, and DARS are keen to work with organisations to ensure they fully understand and meet their obligations.

Please note that an organisation also has obligations to notify the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) in specific circumstances. Notifying NHS Digital does not remove those obligations which exist separately and must be complied with.


Find out how to make the most of DARS with our webinars.

CCGs – using DARS online for data sharing for commissioning

Further information

internal DARS: online fair processing

Where your application involves personal data, then it is a legal requirement under the Data Protection Act (first principle) that personal data must be processed fairly and lawfully.

Last edited: 24 March 2023 1:38 pm