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How NHS Digital collects and uses (open) GP data

Find out how open data is used to create digital tools and services to deliver high-quality healthcare in the UK

The potential of open data for improving healthcare in Europe is becoming more and more evident. That open data can play a major role in delivering the best health service possible to support patient care has been proven by NHS Digital, the UK´s National Health Service.

NHS Digital supports NHS staff at work, helps people get the most appropriate care, and uses the nation’s health data to drive research and transform services. They do this by using the tech General Practice Extraction Service (GPES). GPES collects general practice (GP) data, including information on food parcels, prescriptions, and mental health services. This data helps planning and delivering services as well as supporting vital research.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, GP data was collected and used to help to identify, quickly and accurately, people in need of specific treatments. By creating a list with patients who were clinically vulnerable, ad-hoc services could be offered. Moreover, GP data enabled a smooth vaccine roll-out, with the data being used to define the patient cohorts to be invited for vaccinations. This was especially important for patients clinically vulnerable and those with underlying health conditions, both at higher risk of serious disease and mortality. Thus, collecting and using GP data protected millions of people and saved thousands of lives.

Besides NHS Digital, there are plenty of further examples of how open data support the delivery of key healthcare services in Europe. Another example is the EVapp: A Belgian app that uses (open) data to save the lives of citizens suffering from a cardiac arrest. As soon as someone has a suspicion of cardiac arrest and the Belgian emergency number is called, the emergency centre forwards this message to the ambulance and to EVapp. The app then automatically alerts five citizens with first aid certificates who happen to be in near the victim.

Another example of open data ´for health` is the SNS Transparency Portal used in Portugal to aggregate health data from various entities across the country and make these datasets available. That allows citizens to retrieve information on the locations of the nearest hospital, health center, or pharmacy, as well as on user fees, cross-border healthcare, and waiting times.

Further examples of how (open) data are leveraged in the health and healthcare field can be found on, where different use cases and datasets related to health are showcased.

Also, do not miss out our latest data story on ´The value of health data and its role in Europe`, which gives insights into the pivotal role that health (open) data have in Europe. 

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