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UK open (health) data: which is important to you?

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Health

Who We Are

For those of you who don’t know, the Transparency Team in Cabinet Office works with people inside and outside government on transparency and open data.

Transparency is at the heart of this Government’s reform agenda. Opening up data held by public bodies is an important part of this – increasing accountability, driving better value for money in public spending, and fuelling economic and social growth by enabling businesses, non-profit organisations and others to exploit the datasets we hold.

The team works with those in government who own or are in a position to release data; and engages with those outside who are interested in obtaining that data. The team includes seven ‘relationship managers’, each responsible for a given sector - health, crime and justice, international development, defence, and so on. I am the relationship manager for the health, crime and justice sectors.


Our main priority at the moment - as part of determining what is called the National Information Infrastructure - is to get feedback from people in the UK (and beyond, if they are interested) on what they consider the most important datasets that government holds that should be released as open data. Together with government colleagues in my sectors, I have been responding to data requests from the public; and compiling for publication lists of currently unpublished datasets so that people can see what is held (both published and unpublished) and indicate what they believe is of greatest value.


You can view the feedback to date on any dataset, published or unpublished, simply by clicking on the feedback button. If you would like to leave your own feedback, then all you have to do is register on and click the ‘Add feedback’ button.


In one of my areas, health, a lot of data in general categories is already available:

  • performance data on healthcare professionals, surgeries, hospitals and trusts – which can help increase choice and improve the quality and efficiency of services;
  • research and statistical data on diseases, illnesses and mortality – which can support decision-making by local providers and reduce the incidence of premature death; and
  • other important information, such as prescription data – which can be used to identify patterns on a national scale, and can lead to significant savings for the taxpayer.


We are looking for anyone with an interest in or knowledge of health data to help us identify the most important data to make open.

You may be: 

  • an academic who, given access to certain data, could identify patterns of adverse reactions to drugs that no-one else has detected; or
  • a citizen about to undergo a clinical procedure who wants as much relevant information as possible on which to base an informed choice about the service you use; or
  • a technology entrepreneur who believes that, with access to certain data, in the right form, you could deliver a public service more effectively than is currently achievable.

You might simply be someone who understands that if certain data is made accessible, it can be combined with other datasets to create significant impacts on the quality and efficiency of healthcare.

Next steps

Before final consideration of all the feedback we receive, a government expert group (Health and Social Care Transparency Panel) will make its assessment of which datasets (both published and unpublished) are the most important. The first version of the National Information Infrastructure will be at available by the Open Government Partnership summit at the end of October.

Making a difference

Recently, a data request came in to the government data portal,, asking for infection rates in hospitals – data the Government had promised to publish. The team was sure the data was somewhere, searched and found it for the enquirer.

It turned out that person wasn’t a journalist looking to write an article; or a technology expert wanting to develop an app; or an academic needing the data for a research project; but an ordinary member of the public about to undergo an operation, who wanted to knows the level of infection in their local hospital. They thanked us, expressing relief that the infection rate in their local hospital was lower than average.

Data can help answer the questions we want to ask...and open data can help us answer more of them, better, and lead to solutions as yet unthought-of to the benefit of every area of society.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Sue Beecroft posted on

    I am particularly interested in data which I can compare to locations of new housing developments, particularly to investigate the legendary link between depression and new housing estates.

    Anecdotally I am sure it's accepted that there can be higher levels of depression (and domestic abuse) when a person moves to a new community and perhaps while they are putting down "roots".

    So I would love to get my hands on data which would help see if there is a link between a significant number of new homes / a significant new community being built, and the level of anti depressants being prescribed. Or other changes to prescriiption "patterns" for that matter.