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National administrative record linkage between specialist community drug and alcohol treatment data (the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS)) and inpatient hospitalisation data (Hospital Episode Statistics (HES)) in England: design, method and evaluation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Emmert Roberts, James C Doidge, Katie L Harron, Matthew Hotopf, Jonathan Knight, Martin White, Brian Eastwood, Colin Drummond

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere043540
Pages (from-to)e043540
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Published26 Nov 2020


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King's Authors


Objectives The creation and evaluation of a national record linkage between substance misuse treatment, and inpatient hospitalisation data in England. Design A deterministic record linkage using personal identifiers to link the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) curated by Public Health England (PHE), and Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) Admitted Patient Care curated by National Health Service (NHS) Digital. Setting and participants Adults accessing substance misuse treatment in England between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019 (n=268 251) were linked to inpatient hospitalisation records available since 1 April 1997. Outcome measures Using a gold-standard subset, linked using NHS number, we report the overall linkage sensitivity and precision. Predictors for linkage error were identified, and inverse probability weighting was used to interrogate any potential impact on the analysis of length of hospital stay. Results 79.7% (n=213 814) people were linked to at least one HES record, with an estimated overall sensitivity of between 82.5% and 83.3%, and a precision of between 90.3% and 96.4%. Individuals were more likely to link if they were women, white and aged between 46 and 60. Linked individuals were more likely to have an average length of hospital stay ≥5 days if they were men, older, had no fixed residential address or had problematic opioid use. These associations did not change substantially after probability weighting, suggesting they were not affected by bias from linkage error. Conclusions Linkage between substance misuse treatment and hospitalisation records offers a powerful new tool to evaluate the impact of treatment on substance related harm in England. While linkage error can produce misleading results, linkage bias appears to have little effect on the association between substance misuse treatment and length of hospital admission. As subsequent analyses are conducted, potential biases associated with the linkage process should be considered in the interpretation of any findings.

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