Our History

SAIL Databank is celebrating 10 years supporting research communities to access, link and analyse routinely collected population and health data within a safe and secure remote access environment.

Read Our 10 Year Review


The Health Informatics Research Unit (HIRU) was launched in November 2006.

Core funding was provided by Health & Care Research Wales.

HIRU was led by Professors David Ford and Ronan Lyons.


The SAIL Databank pilot study

With approval of Health and Care Research Wales and in partnership with a few data providers, a pilot study was conducted in the local area around Swansea in West Wales using Patient Episode Database Wales (PEDW) of in-patient stays, GP data from practices in the area, and Local Authority social services data.

The results of the pilot were used to develop and refine methods of data extraction, transportation, storage and analysis, and to build a prototype solution.

A robust governance model is established with privacy by design. Principles:

  1. secure data transportation
  2. reliable record matching
  3. anonymization and encryption of identifiable data
  4. disclosure control
  5. controlling data access
  6. scrutiny of proposal and results
  7. external IG verification

A formal process for obtaining permission for data usage from participating organisations was established.

We developed a formal partnership with NWIS as the Trusted Third Party (TTP) for SAIL Databank.

Prior to national roll-out, we met and consulted with wide-ranging government, regulatory and professional agencies on the acceptability of a data linkage system.

A small team of approximately 10 staff including the directors was established to design, manage and operate SAIL Databank.


Until 2011, data could only be accessed on site. As the user base expanded, we needed a more practical solution. The SAIL Gateway was developed and implemented.

The Gateway uses a secure virtual environment and remote desktop protocol so that data can be accessed safely anywhere in the world.

This attracted more data users and greater investment, including multi-million pound centres such as the MRC-funded CIPHER and the ESRC-funded ADRC.


Funding was secured for a new Data Science Building (DSB), a world-class centre in eHealth and administrative data research, training and development with powerful, robust, state of the art data linkage and analysis facilities.

It opened in summer 2015 and brings two exciting Centres of Excellence together under one roof – the £9.3 million Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research and the new £8 million Administrative Data Research Centre Wales (ADRC Wales), enabling researchers to work together to unleash the potential of large scale data to conduct powerful new research.

The 2900sqm research facility was made possible by the funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Welsh Government.

Achieved the prestigious ISO27001 certification in 2015.


DSB has approx. 100 staff.

The data held within SAIL Databank has increased both in volume and types. A list of current datasets can be accessed here.

As well as structured microdata, SAIL Databank is increasingly working with emerging data types such as geographic, free-text and genetic data within the secure environment.

The expertise and technology developed as part of SAIL Databank has widely influenced new systems and enabled the creation of the UK Secure Research Platform.

10 Year Anniversary!

description SAIL Databank 10 Year Review