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The Administrative Data Research Network is an ESRC-funded project that ran from October 2013 - July 2018. It is currently at the end of its funding cycle and is no longer taking applications. Administrative data research will be taken forward in a new project, to be launched later in 2018.

Prescribing Information System, 1993-

Title Details

Prescribing Information System, 1993-
Principal investigator(s):
Information Services Division (NHS Scotland)
Data collector(s):
Practitioner Service Division

Subject Categories

  • Health


  • Abstract copyright ADRN.

    The Prescribing Information System (PIS) is the definitive data source for all prescribing relating to all medicines and their costs that have been prescribed and dispensed in the community in Scotland from 1993. The information is supplied by Practitioner Services Division (PSD) who is responsible for the processing and pricing of all prescriptions dispensed in Scotland. These data are augmented with information on prescriptions written in Scotland that were dispensed elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

    Prescriptions are dispensed by community pharmacies, dispensing doctors and a small number of specialist appliance suppliers. In general, GPs write the vast majority of these prescriptions, with the remainder written by other authorised prescribers such as nurses and dentists. Also included in the dataset are prescriptions written in hospitals that are dispensed in the community. Note that prescriptions dispensed within hospitals are not included.

    Data include CHI number, prescriber and dispenser details for community prescribing, costs and drug information. Data on practices (e.g. list size), organisational structures (e.g. practices within Community Health Partnerships (CHPs) and NHS Boards), prescribable items (e.g. manufacturer, formulation code, strength) are also included. Further information is available at the online ISD Data Dictionary which provides additional metadata.

    The information in the PIS warehouse is supplied by PSD and is sourced through an established centrally managed national payment system, which is updated on a regular basis. The data are provided for research purpose by the Information Services Division (ISD), who collects a wide range of health related administrative data on behalf of the NHS National Services Scotland (part of NHS Scotland) and has been the authoritative source of Scottish national health care statistics for over 50 years. The data are used to enhance decisions about Scottish health care to improve the health of the people of Scotland. ISD is part of the ScottisH Informatics Programme (SHIP), a Scotland wide research platform for the collation, management, dissemination and analysis of Electronic Patient Records. As part of SHIP, ISD delivers Electronic Data Research and Innovation Service (eDRIS), a one stop shop for health research designed to provide a single point of contact and to assist researchers in study design, approvals and data (non-patient or patient identifiable) access in a secure environment (the NSS National Safe Haven).

    The Prescribing Information System covers prescribing relating to all medicines and their costs that are prescribed and dispensed in the community in Scotland. A range of geographical and organisational measures are available in the dataset for patient residential address / prescriber / dispenser. These include:

    • NHS Board
    • Council Area
    • Local Government District
    • UK Parliamentary Constituency
    • Scottish Parliamentary Constituency
    • Electoral Ward
    • Community Health Partnership
    • Data Zone
    • Census Output Areas
    • Postcode
    • Urban / Rural Codes
    • Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation measures
    • Carstairs Deprivation measures

    On April 1st 2006 the configuration of NHS Boards was changed with NHS Argyll & Clyde being dissolved. The larger part of its area moved into NHS Greater Glasgow with the remainder moving to NHS Highland.

    Research Usage and Linkage

    Prescription drugs are one of the most common forms of treatment in the NHS and the majority of the population of Scotland are in receipt of prescription drugs at any point of time. Therefore the Prescribing Information System is a unique, complete and high quality source of information on prescribing in Scotland.

    As prescription expenditure covers in excess of £1 billion and around 15% of the total NHS general revenue allocation in Scotland there is strong interest from the Scottish Government and NHS service providers for information to ensure the clinical and cost effectiveness of these treatments as well as policy development. Prescribing data are also in demand for medical research such as clinical trials and epidemiology.

    Prescription data are also used for target monitoring, national statistics publications, information requests (including Parliamentary Questions), health services research, performance management and providing information to support health promotion. The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) uses prescribing data on proportion of population being prescribed drugs for anxiety, depression and psychosis in the Health Domain. A number of commercial organisations use prescribing and dispensing data both in the form of published information on the website and information requests for bespoke tabulations and extractions. These include pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy contractors and drug wholesale suppliers. Pharmaceutical companies use the information to inform new drug development and the uptake, effectiveness and safety of drugs current in use.

    ISD produces a range of prescribing related publications. Prescribing indicators are available from the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics website.

    Note that the availability of CHI data from April 2009 onwards means that it is possible to relate prescribing data to other ISD datasets holding the CHI variable.

Coverage, universe, methodology

Time period:
Observation units:
Events and processes
Kind of data:
Individual (micro) level
All the medical prescriptions which have been prescribed and dispensed in the community in Scotland from 1993. The dataset also covers the prescriptions written in hospitals that are dispensed in the community, while prescriptions dispensed within hospitals are not included. It contains also some information on prescriptions written in Scotland but dispensed elsewhere in the United Kingdom

Time dimensions:
Repeated cross-sectional study
Sampling procedures:
No sampling (total universe)
Number of units:
Around 90 million data items are loaded per annum
Method of data collection:

Compilation or synthesis of existing material

The information in the PIS warehouse is supplied by Practitioner Services Division and is sourced through an established centrally managed national payment system, which is updated on a regular basis.

Frequency of release:
Data Updated:

Administrative and access information

Crown copyright
Access conditions:
Contact the Network



By principal investigator(s):

  • SHIP (2012) A Blueprint for Health Records Research in Scotland, Scottish Health Informatics Programme.

Resulting from secondary analysis:

  • Naughton, F. (2007) Long acting reversible methods of contraception (LARC). The proportion of women of reproductive age using long-acting reversible methods of contraception (LARC) in each NHS Board, ISD Scotland.
  • Morrison, J., Anderson, M.J., Sutton, M., Munoz-Arroyo, R., McDonald, S., Maxweel, M., Power, A., Smith, M., Wilson, P. (2009) 'Factors influencing variation in prescribing of antidepressants by general practices in Scotland', British Journal of General Practice, 59(559), pp. e25-e31. 10.3399/bjgp09X395076
  • McLernon, D.J., Donnan, P.T., Ryder, S., Roderick, P., Sullivan, F.M., Rosenberg, W., Dillon, J.F. (2009) 'Health outcomes following liver function testing in primary care: a retrospective cohort study', Family Practice, 26(4), pp. 251-259. 10.1093/fampra/cmp025.
  • Sharpe, K.H., McClements, P., Clark, D.I., Collins, J., Springbett, A., Brewster, D.H. (2010) 'Reduced risk of oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer among peri- and post-menopausal women in Scotland following a striking decrease in use of hormone replacement therapy', European Journal of Cancer, 46(5), pp. 937-943. 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.01.003.

Page last updated: 20/09/2017