Hospital Episode Statistics (HES Data)
Historically England's Public Health Observatories (PHOs) were established as ‘safe havens’ for Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) Data.
This meant that PHOs had responsibility for housing the data; conducting in-house analyses; and disseminating the data on behalf of the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care (the IC).
The NHS Act 2006 enacted a more formal system of control over potentially sensitive health data.
As a result, we have maintained the HES ‘safe haven’ function under the sponsorship of the Department of Health.
What are HES?
HES are a suite of record-level data sets comprising inpatient, accident and emergency, outpatient and patient reported outcome measures (PROMs) data.
The inpatient data set is the most commonly used, holding data from 1989 onwards. It is patient based, and is made up of records for each period of care under one consultant (episodes). These include: the organisations paying for and providing treatment; the patient’s registered GP; and the team providing inpatient treatment.
Each episode is made up of information relating to the patient such as age, sex, ethnicity and home location; the treatment journey such as admission and discharge dates, diagnoses, and operations; and information relating to organisations and professionals associated with the patient’s care.
There are also specific subsets of data relating to maternity and psychiatric care. Outpatient, and accident and emergency datasets contain similar information and are available from 2003 and 2007 respectively.
PROMs data is currently available from 2009, for groin hernia, hip replacement, knee replacement and varicose veins. The focus of this data is different from the other HES datasets. It is designed to look at how the patient felt before and after their operation, in order to measure improvement in their wellbeing.
What are HES data used for?
Patient confidentiality is very important. Any organisation that has access to HES data at record level, or aggregation of very small numbers, signs the HES Protocol.
The HES protocol is a document containing very specific instructions regarding what the data can be used for, and how to ensure confidentiality is maintained. The data cannot, under any circumstances, be used to identify specific individuals. The HES protocol states that the data may be used for:
- Local NHS management
- Planning and target setting
- Performance management
- Clinical governance
- Comparative analysis
- Needs assessment and fair access to healthcare
- Monitoring of health improvement and the effective delivery of healthcare
- Medical/health research
How do the Public Health Observatories use HES data?
PHOs are health intelligence organisations, providing information and analyses that focus on improving health and reducing inequalities.
We offer HES services at a number of levels. Where appropriate we produce national products such as the National HES e-Atlas. This product breaks down the number of hospital admissions by commissioner and local authority. It shows the differences in geographic areas allowing health professionals to identify and build upon good practice.
There are a number of national products produced by individual observatories that are based on HES or include HES data:
PHOs also provide services at a local level. We produce reports, local atlases and tools, and answer bespoke requests. Examples or reports and local atlases can be found on individual PHO websites.
Latest additions, news and events
The 2009/10 HES year has now been signed off and is available through the online system along with provisional full year 2010/11 and provisional 2011/12 monthly data.
As part of our 2012/13 local work programme erpho has agreed to produce quarterly HES outputs. The specification for this work has been agreed and can be found here.
Resources giving advice on APHO's role within the HES service
This contains sections on:
- HES Mission Statement
- APHO HES Contacts
- HES E-ATLAS
Making a HES data request
What can erpho offer?
In general we provide data to allow you to perform further analysis rather than finished products. We normally only provide aggregate data where the total episodes (or other indicator such as number of days in hospital) amount to six or above, for an area the size of a local authority. This ensures that there is no risk of individual patients being identified from the data.
Where this does not give sufficient detail Public Health Observatories have the authority to supply more specific data, under strict guidance contained in the HES Protocol. The receiving organisation also signs up to the HES protocol to ensure they are fully aware of the conditions under which they can handle data. This includes ensuring that the data is not passed on unless aggregated to a high enough level (over six episodes, or six days in hospital etc.).
The request form is downloadable from here and completed request forms must be sent to the following dedicated address: Please tell us:
- Details of the data you require
- When you need the data by
- Some information about why you need the data.
We will discuss your request in order to refine and confirm the requirement. Please give as much notice as possible. We are especially interested in work that we can extend to other parts of the region.
||If you would like to call and speak to someone about your request, please contact Doris Hain on