Data privacy notice: Electronic Staff Record (ESR)

IFS researchers use excerpts of data from the Electronic Staff Record

As part of their research on healthcare, IFS researchers use excerpts of data from the Electronic Staff Record, which is collected as part of the NHS’s payroll management. The notice below describes the data, why it is needed for research and how it is processed and stored.

The data

The Electronic Staff Record contains data on everyone who works directly for the NHS in England (‘directly’ means it does not include people working in GP practices, or for external contractors). It records which hospital trust they work for, their role, their pay, hours, type of contract and some basic characteristics about them (their date of birth, where they live, their gender and the ethnicity and nationality they describe themselves as). The data have been pseudonymised by the Department of Health and Social care and the minimum amount of data that we need to carry out our research projects has been shared with us. Pseudonymised means that it does not contain information on names or National Insurance numbers that would directly identify a person. Instead, each staff member is identified by a number that is specifically generated for use in this dataset. However, because the data is detailed, there is a risk that individuals could be identified by a combination of all their characteristics. To minimise this risk, we take a number of precautions described below.

Why the data are needed

The aim of the IFS programme of work using the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) is to improve the evidence base for policymakers on the drivers of recruitment, retention, and development of NHS staff. We aim to inform public debate and policymaking on this crucial long-term challenge in order to improve the standard of healthcare for patients in the UK and elsewhere. This issue is of high policy importance, and is currently (Spring 2022) the subject of an inquiry by the Health Select Committee. The analysis is carried out as part of the NIHR Health and Social Care Workforce Policy Research Unit, with research topics or questions formed in order to provide evidence on DHSC priority policy areas.

Research projects using the ESR have the potential to deliver benefits for policymakers, staff and patients in the NHS. The data cover all staff members directly employed by the NHS, enabling researchers to study the experiences of particular groups of staff (e.g. by medical specialty or geographic region). This would not be possible with nationally aggregated data, or survey data (such as the Labour Force Survey) which does not contain a large enough sample to ensure statistical precision.

How long will we keep the data?

We plan to keep the data at our institution as long as we have live projects that use the data. When there are no longer any live projects using the data, we will delete the data according to the Memorandum of Understanding that we have in place with the Department of Health and Social Care.

We will ensure that your records are secure for as long as we continue this study.

How we take care of the data

Access to these data is restricted and tightly controlled. Only researchers who are directly involved in healthcare projects may access the data. The data are stored securely and all data users are fully trained on the importance of keeping data secure and avoid identifying individuals. IFS has external accreditation in data security – we are compliant with ISO27001:2013 and we are Cyber Essentials certified. We only publish statistics on groups of staff that are large enough that nobody can be identified (even by the people covered by the data themselves). All written outputs using the ESR are cleared by the Department of Health and Social Care before publication.

Legal bases for using the data

Our lawful basis for processing these data is: legitimate interests 6(1)(f). Our legitimate interest in question is research and statistical purposes: the conduct of non-commercial, robust social and economic research to inform research, policy and clinical practice.

Because these data contain information about ethnicity, they are classed as Special Category data. Our lawful basis for processing this special category data is: Article 9(2)j processing is necessary for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes

Your rights

This webpage is designed to inform you how we are using your data.

Because we cannot identify you, it is not possible for us to process requests in respect of your rights.

If you would like to exercise any of your rights please contact the data protection office at the Department of Health and Social Care @email.

If you have a complaint you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office:

Our contact details

If you wish to discuss the way that we use your data, please contact Isabel Stockton or you can write to them at

The Institute for Fiscal Studies

7 Ridgmount Street



If you have concerns over the way that we use your data please contact the data protection officer you should email [email protected] or write to them at the above address.