Scottish Health and Ethnicity Linkage Study

Ethics and privacy

The methods used by SHELS researchers ensure that no individuals can be identified.

How does SHELS protect privacy? Can individuals be identified in the data used?

The SHELS team have access to an anonymous dataset that includes both health and Census data. This dataset was created using advanced data linkage techniques. No one person has access to both health data with names and census data with names.

The SHELS dataset is held in the National Records Scotland (NRS) "safe haven" (a locked room with controlled access) on two secure computers. All statistical summaries released from this room must go through a strict disclosure control process which ensures no individual can be identified in the output.

Researchers require Government baseline security clearance for access to the data in a safe setting at NRS, as well as research governance training.

What about ethical approval for this work?

The work was approved by the

  • Multicentre Research Ethics Committee for Scotland
  • Privacy Advisory Committee of NHS National Services Scotland
  • Community Health Index Advisory Group
  • Caldicott Guardian, where required.