Skip to main content
Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. More about the merger.

Data Access Request Service (DARS): process

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


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

If you need any support with your enquiry you can contact us on 0300 303 5678 or email [email protected] to discuss your data access requirements. 

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


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 include the required information then submit together with any supporting documentation.
  3. A Case Officer will review your application and if necessary they will schedule an appointment to discuss 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

Your application will be referred back to you if more information is required in any of these areas. Your Case Officer will work closely with you to capture any outstanding details before you resubmit your application with the additional information included.


  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. If as part of your Data Sharing Agreement, you are required to send participant (cohort) data to NHS Digital this will need to be sent via Secure File Transfer (SEFT). The file must be submitted using the cohort submission template. Further guidance on the format can be found in the cohort submitter guidance.
  4. The data, with patient objections upheld as appropriate, is produced, reviewed and signed-off by NHS Digital, or the data service access is granted.
  5. The data will be made available either by Secure File Transfer (SEFT) or through the Data Access Environment (DAE), once the data sharing agreement is signed and the data production process has commenced.


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 National Cyber Security Centre guidance 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).

Further information

Last edited: 22 March 2023 2:22 pm