NHS Digital

NHS Digital
non-departmental public body overview
Formed 1 April 2013 (2013-04-01)
Jurisdiction England
Headquarters Leeds
Motto Information and technology for better health and care
Employees 2500
Annual budget £250m
non-departmental public body executives
  • Noel Gordon, Chairman
  • Andy Williams, Chief Executive
Parent department Department of Health
Website digital.nhs.uk

NHS Digital, formerly the Health and Social Care Information Centre is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health. The organisation was re-branded as NHS Digital on 1 August 2016. It is the national provider of information, data and IT systems for commissioners, analysts and clinicians in health and social care.

Its work includes managing digital projects such as the NHS Spine, E-Referral service, NHS.UK and NHS Mail. It makes sure these and other national systems meet contractual, clinical safety and information standards. It also provides a range of specialist data services.

Previously known as the NHS Information Centre, it produces more than 260 official and national statistical publications. This includes national comparative data for secondary uses, developed from the long-running Hospital Episode Statistics which can help local decision makers to improve the quality and efficiency of frontline care.

It stores and analyses data on activity in the NHS and social care in England, including hospital episode statistics (HES).


The organisation was created as a special health authority on 1 April 2005 by a merger of parts of the Department of Health, parts of the NHS Information Authority, and the Prescribing Support Unit.

Following the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the HSCIC changed from a special health authority to an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body (ENDPB) on 1 April 2013. Effective at this time, HSCIC will take over the NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) programme.[1]

It runs the Health Survey for England (HSE) and oversees parts of the troubled NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), whose component projects are now under new names.

On 20 April 2016, it was announced that HSCIC would be rebranding, changing its name to NHS Digital in July 2016.[2]


A programme called care.data was announced by the HSCIC in Spring 2013. Its aim is to extract data from GP surgeries (GPES) to a central database. Members of the English population who are registered with GP practices are being informed that data on their health may be uploaded to HSCIC unless they prefer this not to happen in which case they may object to their data being used by informing their GP. The data on patients who have not objected may then be used in anonymised form by health care researchers, managers and planners including those outside the NHS such as academic institutions or commercial organisations. The use of identifiable data is governed by the common law on confidentiality, UK data protection legislation, the National Health Service Act 2006 and the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Identifiable data can only be released in compliance with those laws. Software and services are being provided by Atos[3][4] which has itself received criticism for some of its other UK government projects.[5]

Since its launch, the care.data program was controversial.[6] Initially criticism focused around the lack of patient awareness of the programme, and the lack of clarity around options for opting out of the data extraction. The leaflet sent to households in England was criticised for only describing the benefits of the scheme, and not including an opt-out form.[7] The programme was stopped in May 2014 and in October 2014 six clinical commissioning groups in four areas of England were selected to take part in a "pathfinder" programme involving 265 GP surgeries with 1.7 million patients across West Hampshire, Blackburn and Darwen, Leeds and Somerset.[8]

A review by the Cabinet Office Major Projects Authority said to have been conducted in October 2014 concluded that the program had “major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable”.[9]

Atos was criticised by the Public accounts committee in December 2015 and accused of taking advantage of the Department of Health and not showing "an appropriate duty of care to the taxpayer”. The company is one of 8 suppliers working on the project and is to be paid £11.4 million, an increase on the original £8 million.[10]

In June 2015 it was announced that the programme of data extraction would start again in Blackburn in September.[11] In September 2015, it was announced that the programme had again been paused due to confidentiality concerns remaining unresolved.[12]

The programme was abandoned in July 2016.[13]


  1. "The Health and Social Care Information Centre Annual Report and Accounts 2011/12" (PDF). Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  2. Santry, Charlotte (20 April 2016). "HSCIC renamed NHS Digital and new chair hired". Health Service Journal.
  3. "Burton & Bransgore Medical Centres - Data Sharing". burtonandbransgoremedicalcentres.co.uk. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  4. "General Practice Extraction Service (GPES)". Atos. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  5. "Atos to work on NHS care data project despite ongoing 'mess' over disability benefit assessments". Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  6. Cooper, Charlie (24 January 2014). "40 per cent of GPs plan to opt out of the NHS big data sweep, due to a lack of confidence in the project". The Independent. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  7. "MedConfidential - "Better information means better care" leaflet". Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  8. "care.data pilot schemes poised for launch". Pharma Times. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  9. "NHS patient data plans unachievable, review finds". Guardian. 26 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  10. "MPs attack NHS records scheme". Financial Times. 31 December 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  11. "Care.data to restart this month". Health Service Journal. 11 June 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  12. "Care.Data paused again due to confidentiality concerns". Pulse.
  13. Boseley, Sarah (6 July 2016). "NHS to scrap single database of patients' medical details". the Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2016.

External links

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