Jump to navigation Jump to content

Office for National Statistics and BREATHE announce partnership


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and its recognised national statistical institute. Responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels, the ONS and BREATHE – The Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health are delighted to announce their new collaboration.

The ONS joins BREATHE as a Supporting Partner, recognising the strategic alignment of the two organisations with clear potential to work together to improve respiratory health in the UK.

Putting existing data to best use driving forward scientific progress for the benefit of patients, drawing on clinical and research knowledge, is an identified priority highlighted by BREATHE’s patient and public involvement representatives.

With BREATHE’s focus and expertise in respiratory health and epidemiological analysis, and the wealth of data and statistical expertise at the ONS, this new collaboration will enable joint activity to push forward our knowledge and understanding of respiratory health in the UK. Through this shared expertise it will be possible to curate new respiratory-focussed datasets, which can be made available securely to trusted researchers.

With its wide-ranging network of partners, spanning academia, charities and industry, BREATHE is transforming the use of health data to improve respiratory outcomes in the UK. BREATHE works alongside partners and patients to identify priority questions that could be answered using non-identified health data; bringing together high quality respiratory data from multiple sources and providing streamlined access and support for its use in research and innovation, whilst ensuring individual patient privacy is protected at all stages.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, BREATHE is one of seven Health Data Research Hubs delivered by Health Data Research UK.

Through data linkage, the ONS has produced new analysis to investigate the links between social and economic factors and health outcomes. The linkage of the 2011 Census to death registration records and electronic health records was used extensively to produce analysis that were crucial to inform the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continuing to produce data and analysis that help improve population health is a key objective for the Health Analysis division at the ONS, and partnering with BREATHE – The Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health will help strengthen links with researchers to maximise the impact of data and analysis.

A joint team from BREATHE and ONS have already been working to understand the relationship between asthma and severe COVID-19.

Analysis of national-level data such as this is vital to improve our understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic as it unfolds around the world, and benefits from a collaborative, team science approach.

The team plan to build on this work to understand the effects of society, and the environment in which people live and work, on asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, UK’s National Statistician, says of the partnership: “ I am delighted to see the ONS collaborate with BREATHE to push forward our knowledge and understanding of respiratory health in the UK. It’s another example of how, through the power of data and partnership working, we can improve public health and people’s lives.”

Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of BREATHE, added: “ 1 in 5 people in the UK live with a long-term respiratory condition. We are delighted to welcome the ONS – the UK’s national statistical institute – as a supporting partner of BREATHE. Together, we will work to make the very best use of existing health data in the UK, improving outcomes for these patients. We will curate new datasets and make these available to drive forward research and innovation for respiratory health.”

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, said: ” Bringing the UK’s diverse health datasets together has enormous potential to advance scientific discovery that will improve healthcare and people’s lives. We will continue our progress in fulfilling this ambition through working together in partnership across the sector. This new partnership between the ONS and BREATHE – The Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health is therefore another important step on this journey.

Health Data Research UK looks forward to continuing to develop our collaboration with ONS across our wider activities, securely and transparently uniting health data for public benefit.”

BREATHE is part of a network of Health Data Research Hubs, funded through UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and coordinated by Health Data Research UK.

BREATHE is led by Hub Director, Professor Aziz Sheikh, who is also Director of the Usher Institute on Edinburgh BioQuarter, Director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research (AUKCAR), Director of the Scottish Allergy and Respiratory Academy (SARA), Director of the NIHR Global Respiratory Health Unit (RESPIRE) and is Co-Director of the NHS Digital Academy.