The policy for the application of national data opt-outs to data flows into and out of NHS Digital (formerly known as the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)) is as follows. It should be noted that these recognise NHS Digital’s role as the national safe haven and the specific powers it has under the Health and Social Care Act 2012:
7.10.1: Data flows into NHS Digital
National data opt-outs do not apply to flows of data into NHS Digital where these are required under s259 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 following a Direction from Secretary of State or NHS England or a mandatory request.
This was supported by the NDG Review:
“The Review proposes that personal confidential data should be passed to the HSCIC, as the statutory safe haven of the health and social care system, to de-identify or anonymise and share it with those that need to use it. If HSCIC were able to disseminate high quality anonymised data based on a complete dataset, it would reduce the need for these organisations to access personal confidential data. For that reason the Review recommends that, in due course, the opt-out should not apply to any flows of information into the HSCIC”.
NB: Where S. 251 support is relied on for flows of data into NHS Digital they will be subject to the national data opt-out.
7.10.2: Disclosures by NHS Digital
National data opt-outs do apply to disclosures of confidential patient information by NHS Digital in line with this policy.
7.10.3: Return of data to submitting organisation
National data opt-outs do not apply to data disclosed by NHS Digital in accordance with section 261(4) of the 2012 Act where NHS Digital is disclosing confidential patient information to the organisation from whom NHS Digital originally collected the confidential patient information.
Specifically, this covers data returned to the submitting organisation providing no additional confidential information is supplied. For example, the return of Secondary Uses Service (SUS) data to providers. Additional information which is not confidential and which the submitting organisation would be permitted to receive includes items derived or calculated from the submitted information such as age or CCG of residence.
7.10.4: Open data and publications
National data opt-outs do not apply to open data or statistics published by NHS Digital where this is subject to disclosure controls and is fit for publication.
Such data is deemed to be anonymous and individuals cannot be identified.