Guide to secondary data sources

You don’t always have to generate all your evidence and data yourself. Lots of secondary data sources already exist that might answer some of your questions.

Decision making

  • Strategic / business planning / commissioning decisions
  • Project work and pilots
  • Individual funding reviews


  1. What are my information and evidence needs?
  2. What is the strength, validity and reliability of this evidence?
  3. What is current best practice?
  4. What monitoring and evaluation do I need to build in?
  5. Who do I need to engage?

Types of information and evidence

  • Benchmarking data
  • Contract monitoring and performance data
  • Secondary Uses Service (SUS) and/or Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data
  • Finance data
  • Patient and public experience and outcomes
  • Key stakeholder consultation
  • Peer expertise
  • Research and evaluation evidence
  • NICE guidelines and best practice
  • Clinical audit and quality improvement data
  • Grey literature


  • Public Health (PH) profiles
  • Local PH Teams
  • NHS Digital (formerly Health and Social Care Information Centre [HSCIC])
  • Commissioning Support
  • Integrated Care Boards
  • Service provider organisations
  • Healthwatch
  • NHS Evidence
  • Library services
  • NICE
  • NHS England
  • Clinical Senates
  • National Benchmarking Service / Audit Office
  • National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) journals library


  1. Have I reviewed the evidence base and identified best practice?
  2. Have I engaged the appropriate stakeholders?
  3. Do I have enough information and evidence to inform my decision making?
  4. Have I built in adequate monitoring and evaluation?

Example: How to map evidence need against data sources

Information need Data source Organisation Named person / contact Governance (linked Steering Groups)
e.g. Public Health Data, Needs assessments, Local population profiles and prevalence data JSNA
Health Profiles
Census Data
Public Health England
Local Authorities (LA) -
Public Health Public Health Observatory
Public Health
Information Analyst
Organisational performance Contract monitoring and activity data;
Support Units
NHS Digital
Provider Organisations
NHS Benchmarking
Contracting team
Information Analyst
Evidence base - Individual Funding decision and strategic development Research and
Evaluation evidence
Grey Literature
Best Practice - NICE
Guidelines, Quality Standards
NHS Library Service
LA - Public Health
Patient and Public
Complaints, compliments, Friends & Family Test, local and national surveys CCG
Provider data
NHS Choices
Patient and Public
Involvement Lead
Equalities Lead
Peer Expertise Clinical Senates, Strategic Clinical Networks, Universities (High Education Institutes), Providers NHS England
Individual Providers
Staff including:
Clinicians and Commissioners