Supporting research teams

The RSC is a resource which can support a wide range of research and surveillance studies (qualitative; quantitative; retrospective; prospective etc.).

What we can offer

  • Near real-time England population health data - with twice weekly data extractions, the dataset is one of the most up to date in the UK.
  • Longitudinal and representative data - The RCGP RSC is the oldest sentinel network in Europe and is representative of the English population on a variety of domains, both demographic and clinical.
  • High quality-assured data - RSC practices receive continuous support and training by a dedicated team of Practice Liaison Officers. Practice members also have access to personalised dashboard, which shows an aggregated version of their data by week and compared with the rest of the network.
  • Data linkage capability – the RSC team have the capability to link to numerous other health datasets, via pseudonymised NHS numbers. NB: researchers must obtain other datasets separately.
  • Direct link with our practices – Our Practice Liaison team have direct link with our practices, who are willing to administer questionnaires, take biological samples, put on focus groups, and take part in trials. The network can participate in research, quality improvement and surveillance beyond providing data.
  • Concierge services – these will be tailored to your needs and will help you prepare and fast-track your data application.

If you are looking to run a study that requires more than data, associated costs can be built in. Please contact for more information.

Our data

We extract pseudonymised coded data twice-weekly from >1700 general practices in England (>4 million patient records).

The RCGP RSC database contains pseudonymised coded data from primary care practices capturing information on:

  • Demographics
  • Diagnoses and symptoms
  • Drug exposures
  • Vaccination history
  • Laboratory tests
  • Referrals to hospital and specialist care
RCGP RSC can be used forScope and scale of RCGP RSC data

Retrospective research using its data

>63 million records uploaded each week

Prospective research in volunteer practices, including quality improvement interventions and pragmatic trials

<13 million patients ever

Linkage studies – an approved pseudonymisation technique is used, and linking to hospital, death, or other data is possible

>4.2 billion encounters

Machine learning or advanced analytics can be sited within the secure network

>1.8 billion prescriptions

Creation of observatories or weekly reports about a particular illness or health area.

>89 million BP recordings

Fill in a data request form to submit a data request (DOC file, 490 KB).

RCGP have produced a guidance document RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC) Data Application Guidance (DOC file, 215 KB).

Why be involved

In joining the RSC, you will become a member of one of the longest standing data sharing networks in the world. For over 50 years, the network has been sharing data and as it has evolved the opportunity and benefit to Practices is even greater. In joining the RSC you will be able to:

  • Contribute to Public Health data and help inform near-time decision-making relating to pandemics.
  • Participate in wider Primary Care research activity and receive remuneration accordingly.
  • Learn about your own workload and access help and support with subjects such as data quality.

There is no cost to joining the network, in fact it is possible to increase Practice revenue via research and quality improvement exercises enabled by the data dashboards and eLearning.

The RSC recognises the importance of patients being aware that the Practice is participating in research and that they have the right to 'opt out'. To support this, the RSC supplies member Practices with a poster for their waiting rooms, patient information sheet and a copy of the logo for their websites and encourage Practices to add information to their website. When patients do opt out of sharing their data, this is always respected.

Data is extracted direct from the Practice's clinical system, once to twice per week. This is done when the clinical system is not active and usually overnight.

All practices in the network are providing pseudonymised data for surveillance, but practices will not be included in any specific research projects without their official written consent. Joining in research projects does not require signing additional paperwork, unless specifically requested by the funders.

Practice members have access to their own dashboard which includes feedback on data quality, can be downloaded, and is updated weekly. This individualised feedback is based around various aspects of a practices coding, and has the additional benefit of demonstrating a commitment to constant quality improvement during CQC visits.

The RSC only use pseudonymised information for disease surveillance, and is compliant with GDPR Article 6 in the use of personal data and Article 9 in the use of sensitive data (such as health data). The RSC works within all relevant governance frameworks including NHS Digital and the Medical Research Council, and is compliant with all existing legislation and national guidance on the use of patient level data.