What is the Health and Social Care Information Centre?

The central source of data relating to health care, the Health and Social Care Information Centre plays a fundamental role in ensuring that information flows efficiently across the healthcare system.

Established by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) is the central provider of data, standards and IT infrastructure to health care practitioners and analysts across the U.K. Its remit is to provide fast and secure access to key clinical information, driving better health outcomes for patients.

Why was the HSCIC established?

The HSCIC was established to provide a modern information system to the NHS. Its primary function is to collate the medical records of the patient population into a central database. The database, wiped of personal identifiers, can be accessed by clinicians, researchers and government departments for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • Understanding the most important health needs of the population, both locally and nationally
  • Predicting health trends
  • Comparing the care received in one part of the country to the care received in another to see which care options delivered the better outcome
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of existing and new drugs and treatments
  • Identifying and eradicating unacceptable treatments, procedures and standards of care
  • Guiding decisions about how to manage resources fairly so that clinicians can best support the needs of the patient population
  • Ensuring that all patients benefit from the positive experiences of others.

The information collected by HSCIC gives the NHS a complete picture of what is happening across the entire health care service.

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What does the Health and Social Care Information Centre do?

The core duties and priorities of HSCIC include:

  • Collating and analysing national health and social care data
  • Publishing a central register of all the information that has been collated
  • Establishing a national IT infrastructure to produce and manage the information
  • Establishing rules regarding the use of personal confidential information
  • Analysing the data and creating fair statistical analysis that can be used to measure the quality of health and care services
  • Helping healthcare providers improve the quality of the data they collect
  • Reducing the paperwork and bureaucracy for clinicians and care workers.
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Does a patient's data have to go to the HSCIC?

Patients have the right to object to data that identifies them from leaving their GP practice. This type of objection will prevent the patient's information from being sent to the HSCIC.

However, the HSCIC is legally bound to the very highest standards of confidentiality. They can only share information in health records with people other than clinicians where:

  • The law allows it
  • A court order is in place
  • There is a strong public interest justification
  • The patient has given permission.

For example, the HSCIC could not release medical details to a personal injury lawyer unless a court order was first obtained. When requesting medical details in connection with a personal injury case, the solicitor would contact the Claimant's GP.

The Information Commissioner's Office has the power to impose heavy fines if the HSCIC is found to be in breach of data protection legislation.

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