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Data Safe Haven

Safe Havens provide a platform for the use of NHS electronic data in research feasibility, delivery and pharmacovigilance offering:

  • A secure environment, with trained staff operating to agreed principles and standards
  • A federated network across Scotland working collaboratively to deliver and develop health informatics capability
  • Access to a wide range of anonymised datasets  (including national datasets through to specialised local datasets)
  • Robust governance procedures to protect the confidentiality of the data
  • Single costing and contracting
  • Updated daily

Working to agreed principles and standards these Safe Havens provide access to health data and services to enable research while protecting the confidentiality of the data. Data remains under the control of the NHS and complies with legislative and NHS policies.

Local Safe Havens operate in the regional hubs of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow; with a national Safe Haven at Public Health Scotland.

Research Data Scotland (RDS)

While it is not a Safe Haven, Research Data Scotland (RDS) facilitates and contributes to research and co-ordinates the Scottish Safe Havens Group to help standardise and improve systems.

RDS aims to connect researchers to public sector data, making it simpler and faster to generate evidence to help create policies to improve society. Working in partnership, they lead the transformation of Scotland’s public sector data systems to align and simplify policies and approaches and to deliver improvements.

RDS works with organisations across the Scottish data landscape and provides leadership to improve systems for accessing data. They do this by safely and securely widening the range of data available, adding value to those data and providing a single point of contact for effective access to public sector data.

RDS is a not-for-profit charity, formally established in 2021 and funded by Scottish Government. Along with Scottish Government, RDS works with leading universities and public bodies, such as Public Health Scotland (PHS) and National Records Scotland (NRS).

To find out more about Research Data Scotland and stay updated on their progress, sign up to their monthly newsletter.

Useful information

  • A Safe Haven, in terms of NHS data, is a secure environment supported by trained staff and agreed processes whereby health data can be processed and linked with other health data (and/or non-health related data) and made available in a de-identified form for analysis to facilitate research. It is a safeguard for confidential information which is being used for research purposes. Any researchers applying for access to health data must adhere to the Safe Haven principles
  • Safe Havens in Scotland were established as part of a national need for delivering research excellence and the need for rapid access to high-quality health data for research purposes
  • They were developed in line with the SHIP blueprint which outlined a programme for a Scotland-wide research platform for the collation, management, dissemination and analysis of anonymised Electronic Patient Records (EPRs)
  • The agreed principles and standards to which the Safe Havens are required to operate are set out in the Safe Haven Charter
  • Use of an (accredited) Safe Haven addresses key areas of interest to Information Governance leads or Caldicott Guardians in reviewing applications for access to health data for research.