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Population health surveys

Information on how to access the NHS Digital’s public health survey datasets for secondary research.

The majority of data sets available to request from DARS contain data collected from health and social care settings, such as hospitals, clinics, pharmacies or community centres. However, NHS Digital and DARS also offer access to public health surveys which have taken place with a representative sample of the population. Many of these surveys take place in respondents’ homes or via postal/online surveys and are much smaller (in terms of the number of records included) than national and mandated data collections.

NHS Digital commissions a range of public health surveys, which look into matters of people’s lifestyles, behaviours and choices that may have a lasting impact on their health. For each survey an official statistics publication is produced, which includes a report and excel data tables that highlight the key findings of the survey.

NHS Digital also make available a disclosure-controlled dataset for secondary research. To find out more about these surveys check the Public Health and Health Surveys Service pages.

Types of access permissions

Population Health survey datasets are deposited in the UK Data Service Repository and are available in standardised, pre-defined formats (usually SPSS, STATA or TAB outputs).

Most of these surveys can be accessed under the UK Data Service (UKDS) End User Licence (EUL), which does not require a DARS application to be completed. 

However, some of our health surveys, due to the sensitive nature of the data they contain, are subject to a stricter application and approval process. These are available under UKDS Special User Licence (SUL) which needs users to meet a number of special criteria before access to the data will be given. For these restricted data sets, users will have to sign a Data Sharing Agreement with NHS Digital. On signing the Data Sharing Agreement NHS Digital will notify the UKDS that access to the specified dataset can be granted. See the Accessing survey data - process for details.

The expanders below indicate the type of access request applicable to specific surveys, the years the survey was conducted and any additional restrictions.

Adult Dental Health Survey

Type of access Year of survey
UKDS EUL 1988, 1998, 2009
UKDS SUL N/A

Additional restrictions: Use for commercial (not for profit) research will require approval from NHS Digital.

Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey

Type of access Year of survey
UKDS EUL 1993, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2007
UKDS SUL 2014

Additional restrictions: Use for commercial (not for profit) research will require approval from NHS Digital.

Child Dental Health Survey

Type of access Year of survey
UKDS EUL 2003, 2013
UKDS SUL N/A

Additional restrictions: Use for commercial (not for profit) research will require approval from NHS Digital. 

Health Survey for England (HSE)

Type of access Year of survey
UKDS EUL 1991 to 2018
UKDS SUL 2015

Additional restrictions

EUL 1991 to 2018 - Use for commercial (not for profit) research will require approval from NHS Digital.

EUL 2015 to 2018 - Access is limited to applicants based in the UK or in the EEA.

Access is limited to applicants based in Higher Education/Further Education institutions, central and local government, NHS, research companies and charities for not-for-profit education and research purposes only.

Access requests from users not in the above categories will be subject to approval by NHS Digital.

Some variables that were in earlier datasets are no longer available in the EUL dataset. These variables are being made available as part of the SUL datasets.

Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP)

Type of access Year of survey
UKDS EUL 1999, 2004
UKDS SUL 2017, 2020, 2021

Additional restrictions: Use for commercial (not for profit) research will require approval from NHS Digital.

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People (SDD)

Type of access Year of survey
UKDS EUL 1990 to 2016
UKDS SUL N/A

Additional restrictions

EUL 1990 to 2016 - Use for commercial (not for profit) research will require approval from NHS Digital

EUL 2016 - Access is limited to applicants based in the UK or in the EEA.

Access is limited to applicants based in Higher Education/Further Education institutions, central and local government, NHS, research companies and charities for not-for-profit education and research purposes only.

Access requests from users not in the above categories will be subject to approval by NHS Digital.

Survey of Carers in households

Type of access Year of survey
UKDS EUL 2009-2010
UKDS SUL N/A

Additional restrictions: Use for commercial (not for profit) research will require approval from NHS Digital. 

What About Youth Survey

Type of access Year of survey
UKDS EUL 2014
UKDS SUL N/A

Additional restrictions: Use for commercial (not for profit) research will require approval from NHS Digital.


Non-standard versions of survey data

Survey data sets deposited in UKDS are pre-defined and minimised to guarantee the respondents’ confidentiality.

However, non-standard versions of those data sets can also be requested, subject to the appropriate justification and legal bases.

These can be:

  • survey data linked to another NHS Digital asset(s)
  • bespoke version of the data, with additional variables or derivations for example
  • requests for right to re-contact survey respondents to take part in another research project (project area must be related to original survey)
  • requests for serum samples (part of HSE)

All requests for non-standard data are subject to DARS applications and approvals. Non-standard versions of the data are disseminated as extracts, but the production timescales for those are longer and should be discussed individually with your case officer.

For more information about accessing non-standard versions of survey data please contact the Surveys Team with an overview of your requirements at surveys.queries@nhs.net.


Cost

Standard survey data sets, both UKDS EUL and SUL, are available free of charge.

When filling in an application for the UKDS SUL dataset via the DARS Online system a cost will be automatically generated. This will be manually removed by the DARS case officer during the application process.

Non-standard extracts of survey data are available at cost - fees are dependent on the type of request, volume of the data and its complexity. Please contact DARS team at data.applications@nhsdigital.nhs.uk to find out about details.


Accessing survey data – process

EUL and SUL requests are still subject to the same benefit to health and social care requirements as all data requests.

Accessing the EUL datasets

Users need to create an account with the UKDS. Once an account has been created, access to datasets is managed by creating projects within your UKDS account area and by adding survey datasets to your created projects. 

  1. To add a dataset to a project, navigate to the survey and the survey year of interest and select Access Data. If there are any special criteria for data access these will be shown here.
  2. Select Add to Account and the dataset will be added to your account. You will then need to assign it to a project. You will also need to accept any special criteria, which will vary depending on the survey dataset; accepting the EUL Terms and Conditions and for some later datasets confirming the location the dataset will be stored and accessed.

For more information about how to register and access data within the UKDS go to the UKDS page.

Users who do not meet the criteria listed in the Additional Restrictions can apply for access to the data, and these will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Please follow the UKDS instructions when adding the dataset to your account. 

Accessing the SUL datasets

Follow the instructions for the EUL datasets to create a UKDS account and add the chosen survey to your account and a named project. Accept the EUL Terms and Conditions.

The next step is to complete the DARS application, which concludes with a Data Sharing Agreement signed between the applicant and NHS Digital.

To apply for data through DARS, your organisation will need to have a Data Sharing Framework Contract (DSFC) signed with NHS Digital. You will also have to create a DARS Online account. Contact NHS Digital Enquiries team (enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk or 0300 303 5678) to find out if your organisation already has a DSFC with us and to create an account. If you have previously applied for data via DARS, you can proceed directly to DARS Online portal.

Please review the DARS application guidance pages before applying: DARS processpre-application checklistapplication guidancehow to make an application videosecurity requirements

Prior to applying for survey data you can contact DARS team at data.applications@nhsdigital.nhs.uk for more information about the application and approval process. Once your application has been submitted, you will be able to discuss your requirements with your dedicated DARS case officer. Remember to quote your application’s reference number “NIC-xxxxxx” generated at the launch of the application process.

Once your application is submitted, it will be reviewed by a case officer and referred back to you if more information is required. Your case officer will work closely with you to capture any outstanding details before you resubmit your application with the additional information included. You will be notified by email when the application status changes.

With regards to how long your application will take, the ‘Our service levels’ section on the NHS Digital Website gives details of the expected timeframes.

The application process concludes when the applicant (electronically) signs the Data Sharing Agreement (DSA) on DARS Online. This triggers an instruction for UKDS, to grant access to authorised users. UKDS usually grant access to the data within 48 hours.

Last edited: 3 August 2021 12:32 pm