Epidemiological studies are increasingly being linked electronically to National Health Service registers and other “e-health” datasets, which can provide a wealth of information including large numbers of diagnoses of different health conditions and details of operations and other medical procedures, as well as prescribed medications.  Linkage to these routinely-collected datasets enhances the research value of both the epidemiological study, for example by enabling virtually complete and cost-effective follow-up of many study participants over many years, and the data collected by the NHS, by linking this with otherwise unavailable information on individual lifestyle factors as collected by a research study.

Studies conducted at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, such as the Million Women Study and EPIC-Oxford, were among the first large-scale research studies to link to UK primary and secondary care administrative datasets.  We continue to expand our work in this area, testing, validating and subsequently using linked data from England and Scotland for deaths, cancer registrations, hospital admissions, primary care, drug prescribing, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, and more.  We collaborate with others in the UK (UK Biobank, the Dementias Platform UK, the Farr Institutes, the Health and Social Care Information Centre) and look forward to working with data scientists in the newly-formed Oxford-Stanford Big Data Institute, due to open next door to the Richard Doll Building in 2016.