Data Access Request Service (DARS): process

Summary

The DARS process consists of the following stages: Enquiry, Application, Approval, Access, Audit and Deletion of data.

Enquiry

Before you begin the application process please contact us on 0300 303 5678 or email enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.ukto 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.

Application

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.

Access

  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.

Audit

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 Data Sharing Framework Contract expires and is not renewed. 

Please complete the Certificate of Destruction and refer to the good practice guides for more information on the Sanitisation, reuse, disposal and destruction of electronic media and the Destruction and disposal of sensitive data.

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 enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk.

Further information