Frequently Asked Questions
Those who apply to undertake research using UKMED.
The ‘data subjects’ whose data may be included in UKMED.
Organisations which contribute data to UKMED.
This page has been divided to respond to the questions of three major groups, but many of the answers will be relevant to all parties.
What data are held in the database?
In the pilot phase, UKMED held data on those who started medical school in 2007 and 2008. For the current data, please consult the data dictionary The data are comprised of:
Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency – HESA
- The medical schools attended, including whether the student successfully completed an undergraduate medical course
- Demographic data including ethnicity and measures of socio-economic status
- Data on the students’ entry qualifications (A-levels/Highers and equivalents)
Data from aptitude test providers used by medical schools in their selection processes
- UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)
- Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)
- The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
Data from applications to foundation training
- Situational Judgement Test scores
- Educational Performance Measures
Data on postgraduate markers of trainees’ progression
- Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) outcomes from deaneries and Local Education Training Boards
- Outcome of applications to nationally recruited specialty training programmes
- Royal College Membership exams
Fitness to practise data (held by GMC)
- Declarations of fitness to practise made on application for provisional registration with a licence to practise
- Fitness to practise data
- Data on doctors’ experiences of training from the National Training Survey (held by GMC)
For more information, see the full list of existing datasets. UKMED is currently inviting recommendations for new research questions and associated datasets. Detail on the latest datasets to be added can be found at Potential new datasets.
How are the data collected?
Data are collated from pre-existing databases used to administer entry to medical school, entry to postgraduate training programmes, the management of postgraduate training programmes and the evaluation of postgraduate training programmes.
How can I find out more about UKMED?
Agendas and minutes from meetings of the Advisory Board are published on this website, as well as supporting documents as appropriate. It is also possible to sign up for UKMED news alerts via the Contact page.
Who is responsible for UKMED’s compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?
UKMED is a partnership between various organisations. The governance structure of UKMED means the GMC is the sole data controller under the GDPR. The GMC is responsible for ensuring compliance with the data protection legislation and responding to requests about the handling of personal data.
Where is the database held?
All information is processed in accordance with GDPR and is held securely by the GMC acting as Data Controller.
How are the data stored?
Files submitted by data contributors are stored in a secure system by the General Medical Council or in a secure Safe Haven environment. The General Medical Council is committed to maintaining high levels of information security and data protection to ensure the secure processing and storage of personal data. It has maintained certification to the international information security standard ISO 27001 since 2006 and has been compliant with the NHS' Information Governance Toolkit since 2011.
How does UKMED comply with the GDPR?
The use of personal data within UKMED is fully compliant with the data protection legislation. The General Medical Council is the data controller for UKMED data, and is carrying out this work to fulfil its statutory functions under the Medical Act 1983. The GDPR does not require the General Medical Council to obtain consent when it is processing personal data needed to perform its statutory functions.
The GDPR does require that personal data is processed fairly. This is achieved in various ways:
- Organisations that share data with the GMC have to include this in their privacy notices or terms and conditions.
- UKMED data are not used to monitor or make decisions about individual medical students or doctors.
- Researchers wanting access to UKMED data have to submit a proposal for assessment by the UKMED research sub-group. The group includes senior academics, test providers and GMC advisors.
- The data extracts provided to researchers are subject to an anonymisation process and only accessed through a Safe Haven under strict research agreements which prevent reidentification.
How can I access the data?
The next window for application will be advertised on our homepage. You can also sign up to receive UKMED alerts on the contact page. If you are considering applying to conduct research using UKMED, please contact us to receive advice and support in understanding the data available.
We recommend that you look at the Accepted Applications page to check how similar research topics are being addressed.
What ethical approval do I need before I can submit my research proposal to UKMED?
The Medical Schools Council agreed that all approved applications for research projects using data exclusively held by UKMED would meet the criteria for a blanket exemption from the need to apply for ethics approval that would be recognised by ethics committees relevant to the UK medical schools. A letter was written from QMUL Ethics of Research Committee on behalf of all UK medical schools to confirm ethics exemption.
Researchers supplying data not held by UKMED will be required to demonstrate that the institution of the lead researcher has granted ethics approval or that their proposed study is exempt from the requirement to obtain ethics permission.
Can I use the data set outside of the safe haven?
No, the data will only be available within the safe haven.
I’m not a researcher – can I still access the data?
No, the data are available only for the purpose of analysing medical training pathways.
I have a question about the data
If you have any questions about UKMED, please contact us.
What reassurances are there for the people the data are collected about?
There are strict disclosure controls on accessing the data and rigorous procedures in place to ensure that the data available for research do not identify individuals. The purpose of the database is not to monitor individuals, or to support measures or decisions taken with respect to individuals; its purpose is to analyse broader trends across the population of medical students and trainees and to evaluate medical training pathways.
In order to link the data from multiple sources together the GMC receives data in an identifiable format. Only the data team in the GMC working on UKMED have access to identifiable data, for the purpose of maintaining the dataset and creating research extracts. Data is anonymised when it is provided to researchers, and the data are not used operationally for other GMC purposes.
Can I request to see the data UKMED holds on me?
In the first instance we would recommend that you approach the organisation which provided the data for UKMED, as it will be processing those data for their initial purpose and is more likely to be able to provide useful context for the data.
You can also ask the General Medical Council, as the data controller for UKMED, for a copy of the data it holds about you. You should be aware that there are some exemptions from the right of access which may apply where data is only being processed for research purposes. You can find more information on the GMC website.
The UKMED data dictionary provides a detailed overview of the data contained in UKMED. The dictionary also highlights the data which will not be released to researchers because of the risk of identification. Data provided to researchers through the Safe Haven are also subject to further anonymisation techniques to prevent the identification of individuals. This is explained further in the UKMED research process. (stage six – de-identification of the dataset).
In some years, new data sets are added to UKMED. From 2020/21 we will collect assessment data from medical schools. This will allow researchers to study the role played by assessment methods in medical education.
We will only hold final medical school assessment data, and not assessment data that is under appeal. The list of assessments from each medical school included within UKMED will be published as part of the data dictionary. As with all UKMED data, they will only be used for research purposes and not for making decisions about individuals.
Can I request data related to me to be removed?
It is important to include the full cohort of medical students and doctors in training to ensure that the evaluation of selection and assessment hurdles is as robust as possible. UKMED does not provide an opt-out from the study cohort because of the impact that an incomplete dataset would have on the research. In exceptional circumstances, where inclusion in UKMED is causing substantial damage or distress, we can consider such issues on a case by case basis. If you have any questions about the inclusion of your data, please contact us.
Can particular medical schools be identified in the data?
It is possible that research will identify particular medical schools and course, and that this will be part of the published research outputs. The Medical Schools Council considered this in signing up to support UKMED, and, like all data contributors, agrees that transparency will best inform the development of medical education and assessment.
I’m a student who would like to run a research project – can I access the data?
You are welcome to apply once you secure supervision from a faculty member to help ensure accountability and a supportive governance structure for the project.
What data can be included in UKMED?
The UK Medical Education Database (UKMED) project brings together undergraduate and postgraduate data into a single repository of data describing doctors’ progression from entry to medical school through to the first few years of training and practice.
The purpose of UKMED is to improve understanding of medical education, from selection to career outcomes through undergraduate and postgraduate training to support the regulation of training pathways and ensure that selection and assessment hurdles are valid. The General Medical Council will consider data for inclusion which will help achieve this aim. This could be data on applicants to medical school, selection processes, academic progression, and other outcome measures.
Do we need consent from individuals to provide their data?
The use of personal data in UKMED is not reliant on individual consent from data subjects, as it is not a necessary condition for processing under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR allows personal data to be used without consent where it is necessary for statutory functions. The Medical Act 1983 gives the General Medical Council a legal responsibility to promote high standards of medical education and co-ordinate all stages of medical education. UKMED supports the General Medical Council to fulfil this function by enabling investigation of training pathways, educational programmes and, selection and assessment tools. This enables the creation of the database and the disclosure of data by other providers in compliance with the GDPR.
The Information Commissioner's Office guidance on consent under General Data Protection Regulation encourages public authorities to rely on their statutory functions instead of consent to enable the use of personal data. The validity of UKMED relies on the General Medical Council having a complete dataset for its cohorts of students and doctors. If the General Medical Council used consent as the basis for inclusion this would reduce the number of subjects and severely limit the value of UKMED as a research tool.
UKMED data are only disclosed to researchers in a pseudonymised form through a Safe Haven which prevents identification. The data cannot be used to make decisions about individuals. On that basis the General Medical Council believes it is a lawful and proportionate use of its statutory functions to use UKMED without obtaining consent.
How do we make sure our contribution to UKMED complies with the GDPR?
Your organisation is a data controller and is responsible for ensuring your own compliance with the GDPR. You need to ensure that when you share data you are doing so fairly, as required by the GDPR’s first principle. The General Medical Council is not prescriptive about how you do this but data should be disclosed in line with individuals’ reasonable expectations. We encourage all UKMED contributors to be transparent and, while not always necessary to comply with the GDPR, we encourage data contributors to make students and applicants aware that personal data is shared with the General Medical Council in order to support its statutory functions and that data will be shared to facilitate research into medical education.
The General Medical Council reviews privacy notices from potential contributors as part of the governance process, and where possible will provide advice about data protection compliance.
What governance arrangements are in place between data contributors and the General Medical Council?
The General Medical Council acts as Data Controller for UKMED. Among other things, the General Medical Council is responsible for the security of the data. The General Medical Council has data sharing agreements in place with contributors. These ensure that the purpose of the data sharing and the responsibilities of each party are clearly understood. The Medical Act also gives the General Medical Council explicit powers to request information in some situations.
How are UKMED data used and shared?
Data users (researchers) are provided with a pseudonymised dataset which can only be accessed through a Safe Haven based at the University of Dundee. This ensures that users are not able to identify individuals within the data or use the data for other purposes. These technical arrangements are bolstered by a legal agreement with the General Medical Council.
Does contributing data to UKMED entitle contributors to use the full dataset for our own research?
UKMED contributors, including the GMC, are able to apply for access to the dataset through the research process. Contributor requests will be treated in exactly the same way as an external request to use the data. If the research proposal is approved, the data will be pseudonymised and accessed through the Safe Haven and supported by a legally binding agreement, which prevents contributors conducting research from attempting to re-identify individuals in the data.
What identifiers are needed to match new data to UKMED?
The following identifiers are used to match your data with the data held in UKMED:
- UCAS person ID
- GMC Reference Number
- HESA ID
- Universities’ own student number when used in conjunction with the medical school name
If no identifiers are available, the minimum requirement is name, date of birth, and at least one of the pieces of information from the following: medical school attended and year of commencing study; postcode on application to medical school.
How does the General Medical Council ensure that only data relevant for UKMED are imported from contributors’ datasets?
It is a two-stage process. First the identifiers and demographics are used to match the individuals in the new data set to the UKMED population. Then the full dataset (e.g. the exam scores) is requested for only the individuals which have matched to the UKMED database.
What is the UK Medical Applicant Cohort Study (UKMACS)?
The UK Medical Applicant Cohort Study (UKMACS) is an academic research study led by Dr Katherine Woolf at UCL Medical School. The study is funded by a National Institute for Health Research Career Development Fellowship (grant reference number CDF-2017-10-008). The views expressed are those of the team and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.
What is the study about?
The study aims to make sure the NHS benefits from getting the best doctors. It will do that by providing evidence about how to help applicants from all backgrounds apply to medical school. In 2019 people who are seriously considering applying to study medicine in the UK are invited to take part in the study by completing two questionnaires about their experience of applying to medical school. With permission, participants’ UKMACS questionnaire answers will be linked into UKMED and analysed for academic research purposes ONLY.
How do I take part?
To be eligible to take part in UKMACS, you must be a) seriously considering applying to study medicine in the UK for entry in 2020, and b) resident in the UK, and c) aged 16 or over. Everyone who takes part in both questionnaires can enter a prize draw to win up to £500 Amazon vouchers. For a link to take part and more information about the study, please see UKMACS.
I have answered the UKMACS questionnaire(s) but I have decided not to apply to medical school this year (applying in 2019 for entry in 2020). What will happen with my data?
Your data will be used as described in the UKMACS Information Sheet. In summary:
- Your questionnaire answers will be added to the highly-secure UK Medical Education Database (UKMED), which contains information about everyone applying to study medicine in the UK.
- Your identifying information (name, UKCATID and contact details) will be removed in a process called pseudonymisation, and then your questionnaire answers will be linked to other relevant information about your education and background (e.g. your UCAT score) and stored safely and securely.
- Your pseudonymised linked information will then be made available to the UKMACS research team for research, via an online safe haven.