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Honest Broker Service – Our Work

The Honest Broker Service brings together routine data collected during HSC Service Users interactions with Health and Social Care (HSC) services in Northern Ireland and provides a way of accessing this for internal users and for research.

HSC administrative data is vital for delivering effective services and driving research and innovation, however it is important that sharing is carried out in a way that ensures data is used safely and securely, in a way that protects the confidentiality of HSC Service Users.

HSC Secure Data Research Services

The Honest Broker Service provides a Secure Data Research Service through which accredited researchers can access de-personalised HSC administrative data to conduct research for the public good.

The Honest Broker Service operates under the Five Safe Framework which is a globally recognised set of principles adopted by secure labs, we have provided an explainer and links to videos about the Five Safe Framework here.

The data that researchers access for approved projects is de-personalised and provided through a secure computing environment, which the researchers access data through rather than downloading onto their own system.

The services provided are commonly referred to as Trusted Research Environment, Secure Data Environment or Data Safe Haven. More information is provided here.

The dedicated team in the Honest Broker Service provides end to end support to applicants, including:

  • Provision of metadata
  • Advice on data availability
  • Advice and guidance on project proposals and support to applicants throughout the application process
  • Support to the HSC Data Access Committee who oversee the service and are responsible for scrutiny and approval of applications
  • Advice on training to become an accredited researcher
  • Extraction and de-identification of datasets based on individual project requirements, including removal of individual identifiers to make it safe for the researchers to work with.
  • Provisioning of a Secure Data Environment through which data is accessed
  • Screening of all information leaving the Secure Data Environment using agreed statistical disclosure control techniques to protect confidentiality.

HSC and Department of Health Secure Data Access Requests

When data is not required for the direct care of service users, organisations should be seeking anonymised or pseudonymised data.

All service users have a Health and Care Number which is a unique identifier and is used across HSC organisations instead of direct identifiers such as name and address. However, most organisations will also have ways of linking names to Health and Care Numbers if required so to achieve anonymisation/pseudonymisation additional steps are required, such as encryption.

The Honest Broker Service provides, reporting, data extraction, linkage and de-identification service so that internal users can carry out important work while maintaining compliance with the Code of Practice on Protecting Confidentiality of Service Users.

Data is either supplied to internal HSC customers through BOXI or Business Objects reporting services provided by the BSO Regional Data Warehouse or through data extracts.