Research Outputs of England’s Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) Database: Bibliometric Analysis

Zain Chaudhry, Fahmida Mannan, Angela Gibson-White, Usama Syed, Shirin Ahmed, Azeem Majeed


Background: Hospital administrative data, such as those provided by the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) database in England, are increasingly being used for research and quality improvement. To date, no study has tried to quantify and examine trends in the use of HES for research purposes.

Objective: To examine trends in the use of HES data for research.

Methods: Publications generated from the use of HES data were extracted from PubMed and analysed. Publications from 1996 to 2014 were then examined further in the Science Citation Index (SCI) of the Thompson Scientific Institute for Science Information (Web of Science) for details of research specialty area.

Results: 520 studies, categorised into 44 specialty areas, were extracted from PubMed. The review showed an increase in publications over the 18-year period with an average of 27 publications per year, however with the majority of output observed in the latter part of the study period. The highest number of publications was in the Health Statistics specialty area.

Conclusion: The use of HES data for research is becoming more common. Increase in publications over time shows that researchers are beginning to take advantage of the potential of HES data. Although HES is a valuable database, concerns exist over the accuracy and completeness of the data entered. Clinicians need to be more engaged with HES for the full potential of this database to be harnessed. 


Public Health; Secondary Care; Episode of Care; Database;

Full Text:



NHS Digital. Hospital Episode Statistics (HES). Available from: [Accessed: 20th April 2017]

Herbert A, Wijlaars L, Zylbersztejn A, Cromwell D and Hardelid P. International Journal of Epidemiology. [In press: Online] 2017. Available from: doi: 10.1093/ije/dyx015 [Accessed: 20th April 2017].

The Health and Social Care Information Centre. Hospital Outpatient Activity Summary report 2011-2012. Available from: [Acessed: 18th April 2017].

NHS Digital. Hospital Episode Statistics, Admitted Patient Care – England, 2014 – 2015 [NS]. Available from: [Accessed: 30th March 2017].

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. About the Safe Haven. Available from: [Accessed: 15th March 2017].

Royal College of Physicians and Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology. HES for Physicians: A guide to the use of information derived from Hospital Episode Statistics. 2007. Available from: [Accessed: 14th March 2017].

J.A cook and G.S Collins. The rise of big clinical databases. The British Journal of Surgery. 2013; 102(2): e93-e101. Available from: doi: 10.1002/bjs.9723 [Accessed: 7th March 2017].

NHS Digital. Linked HES-ONS Mortality Data. Available from: [Accessed: 26th February 2017].

NHS Digital. Hospital Episode Statistics linkage to Patient Reported Outcome Measures. Available from: [Accessed: 4th January 2017].

Clinical Practice Research Datalink. CPRD Record Linkage. Available from [Accessed: 18th February 2017].

Simmonds SJ, Syddall HE, Walsh B, Evandrou M, Dennison EM, Cooper C and Aihie Sayer A. Understanding NHS hospital admissions in England: linkage of Hospital Episode Statistics to the Hertfordshire Cohort Study. Age Ageing. 2014;43(5): 653-60. Available from: doi: 10.1093/ageing/afu020 [Accessed 29th March 2017].

NHS Digital. Hospital Episode Statistics Linkage to the Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Data Set. Available from [Accessed: 14th March 2017].

Williams JG and Mann RY. Hospital episode statistics: time for clinicians to get involved? Clinical medicine (London). 2002;2(1): 34-7. Available from: [Accessed: 16th March 2017].

Thorn JC, Turner E, Hounsome L, Walsh E, Donovan JL, Verne J, Neal DE, Hamdy FC, Martin RM and Noble SM. Validation of the Hospital Episode Statistics Outpatient Dataset in England. Pharmacoeconomics. 2016;34(2): 161-8. Available from: doi:10.1007/s40273-015-0326-3 [Accessed: 11th March 2017].

Royal College of Physicians. Engaging clinicians in improving data quality in the NHS; Key findings and recommendations from research conducted by the Royal College of Physicians’ iLab. 2006. Available from: [Accessed: 12th April 2017].

Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. Hospital Episode Statistics (HES): Improving the quality and value of hospital data. 2011. Available from: [Accessed: 5th March 2017].

Spencer A. Clinicians and trusts have a role in data quality. British Medical Journal. 2012;344:e2926. Available from: doi: 10.1136/bmj.e2926.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

This is an open access journal, which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or their institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal starting from Volume 21 without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open accessFor permission regarding papers published in previous volumes, please contact us.

Privacy statement: The names and email addresses entered in this journal site will be used exclusively for the stated purposes of this journal and will not be made available for any other purpose or to any other party.

Online ISSN 2058-4563 - Print ISSN 2058-4555. Published by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT