Do you use information held by government to find us?

From time to time we try to trace study members using information held by government departments and agencies. So far, we have tried to trace study members using Child Benefit records held by the Department for Work and Pensions, the National Pupil Database held by the Department for Education (England only), and the NHS (via the NHS Central Register for England and Wales and via Health Authorities and GPs in Scotland and Northern Ireland). We may use other government databases in the future.

The National Pupil Database contains the addresses of all state school pupils in England, which are collected through schools. The NHS Central Register is a database of GP registrations and is held by NHS Digital. We would also find out if you died or moved out of the country from this register.

Whenever we do this, we securely transfer the personal details (name, sex, date of birth and last known address) of study members to the government department or agency. They use these details to identify our study members and then send us their up-to-date addresses. They do not retain the personal details sent to them.

This kind of personal information is not given out routinely by government departments and agencies. Special permissions are needed, and this is only done after a careful review of why this information is needed, ethical issues and data security procedures. For the information coming from the NHS, special approval under Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006 from the NHS Confidentiality Advisory Group and NHS Digital Data Access Advisory Group is needed.