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Data Sources & Quality

Data Sources

The workforce data reported by NES is sourced from many systems. It covers a range of information on the staff in post employed by NHSScotland, vacancies, medical locum agency costs, nursing bank and agency costs and consultant contract.

Staff in post data is mostly sourced from the Scottish Workforce Information Standard System (SWISS). Workforce information was first captured through SWISS in 2007 for the data as at 30th September 2007. SWISS holds live individual level information for all staff and includes data items on the employee, their current post(s), absences and earnings. It is fed directly from NHS Boards local payroll and HR systems (see figure below). 

Doctors in training data is sourced from Turas People (TP) which allows accurate reporting of trainee board of placement and specialty. TP is a new application hosted on the Turas platform that supports implementation of the lead employer model which came into force on 1 August 2018. For reporting purposes we merge data from SWISS and TP to maximise the wealth of data held in of both systems. This process impacts reporting from data as at 30 September 2018.

Sickness Absence data is extracted from SWISS. This data is fed to SWISS from the local payroll systems which are in turn fed by the Scottish Standard Time System which records absences in NHSScotland.

Vacancy data is collected quarterly from NHS Boards for Consultants, Nursing and Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals. Pharmacy data is collected annually.

Nursing and midwifery bank staff data is extracted annually from SWISS. The hours worked by and the cost of this workforce is reported in June for the previous financial year.

Nursing and midwifery agency staff data is annually collected from NHS Boards. The hours worked and the cost of this workforce is reported in June for the previous financial year. 

Consultant programmed activities data is manually collected from NHS Boards. Aggregate information on Consultant Job Plans is reported annually in December for data as at 31 September.

Medical locum agency cost data is extracted from the NHSScotland financial systems sourced by NHS National Services Scotland. This data is reported annually in June for the previous financial year.

Student nurse intake and progression rates data is sourced directly by NHS Education for Scotland. This information captures data from courses in Scottish Higher Education Institutions and is published annually in December for the previous academic year.

Dental workforce data comes from three sources. Dentists working in Hospital and community health services (HCHS) dentists, including public health services, is sourced from SWISS. Dentists working in General Dental Services (GDS) are independent contractors ('High street dentists') General Dental Services data is sourced from the Management Information and Dental Accounting System (MIDAS) held at Public Health Scotland. Vocational Dental Practitioners are new or recent graduates undertaking a one year programme which will allow them to work as an Associate or Principle in a NHS General Dental Practice. VDP data is collected by NHS Education for Scotland. The full dental workforce data is reported in June and September and the HCHS dentists are reported quarterly.

Data Sources

Data Quality and Voluntary Application of the Code of Practice

Data Quality

Workforce information is sourced from NHS Board HR and payroll systems. These are dynamic operational systems in which the data can change over time due to their live status and potential additional updates made by NHS Boards.

It is recognised that the published information does not always reflect the data used at board and regional level when planning and presenting the workforce. Accuracy of coding is crucial to the quality and credibility of the data and NES seeks to minimise such data inaccuracies. However, responsibility for data accuracy lies with the NHS Boards providing the data.

Workforce information may change slightly over time when NHS Boards make updates to their live operational systems to resolve issues that have been identified. Changes will not be made to previously published data, as part of the regular publication process, where there is little impact on the figures at a national level.

The NES Data Group continue to work with stakeholders on a number of data quality improvement projects and the published information will change over time to reflect these changes. 

Voluntary Application of the Code of Practice

Since the publication of workforce statistics on 3 December 2019, NES has been named in legislation as a producer of official statistics. For the December 2019 publication NES voluntarily applied the UK Statistics Authority's Code of Practice for Statistics and worked to ensure full continuity in producing the NHS Workforce statistics according to the three pillars of the code of practice.


Having confidence in the people and organisations that produce statistics and data.

  • NES has a strong background in producing workforce statistics and has recently expanded its team of analysts. Several members of the new NES data team have previously worked either in the ISD Workforce Intelligence team or in other ISD teams responsible for producing National Statistics. They have brought knowledge and experience of the data and a firm grasp of the requirements for producing official and national statistics.
  • Throughout the transition period, NES has maintained contact with key NSS and ISD colleagues involved in workforce intelligence and workforce information systems.
  • The Head of Profession for Statistics for NHS NSS, NHS24 and the Scottish Ambulance Service is now also Head of Profession for NES.
  • NES receives support and training from the NSS ISD Statistical Governance Team


Using data and methods that produce assured statistics.

Throughout these early stages of the transfer of responsibilities, NES has worked closely with colleagues in ISD in order to:

  • Shadow colleagues in the ISD Workforce Intelligence team
  • Study and discuss the standard operating procedures relating to each aspect of data processing and analysis
  • Understand and continue to apply the quality assurance processes to the input and output data
  • Become familiar with data systems and the data processing codebase


NES has used the same data sources used by ISD for publishing workforce statistics prior to the transfer of responsibilities. The ISD Standard Operating processes have also been adhered to, and the existing codebase and processing tools have been used and only modified to improve performance or to implement ongoing, operational improvements.


Producing statistics that support society’s need for information.

NES has produced all the quarterly statistics updates expected by stakeholders and in the established reporting formats. NES has begun to work with various stakeholders and project groups who would previously have been supported by ISD. This will ensure NES remains informed about stakeholder interests and priorities and can be responsive to changes and new requirements, as well as leading innovation and improvement in close consultation with current and potential users.