Home > Update on the national rollout of LINK to replace NDTRS.

Quigley, Hazel (2017) Update on the national rollout of LINK to replace NDTRS. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 61, Spring 2017 , pp. 22-23.

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What is LINK?

LINK is the new web-based system that has replaced the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) database. It enables service providers to enter, validate and report on their data through an online system, from any location with an internet connection and browser.


LINK changes the way in which the NDTRS collects data, enabling service providers to enter their data directly into the online database, which will allow more timely and direct access to their own data through a suite of online predefined reports, as well as providing an ad-hoc analysis tool. Data quality is ensured through a set of inbuilt validations and quality checks that are activated once a service user has been entered into the system.


As an online system, not only is LINK easily accessible and straightforward to use but the time lags involved in the previous data collection process have been eliminated. There is also greater ease of access and transparency for all parties involved.


New NDTRS questions

The NDTRS questions have been significantly amended and updated in order to comply with reporting requirements for the EMCDDA and also to improve the way in which the Health Research Board (HRB) collects data nationally. The key changes concern children of service users, self-defined sexual orientation and treatment outcomes. Further information on the new questions is available in the new protocol.1


Treatment episodes

Each NDTRS form becomes a treatment episode in the LINK database. Service providers can enter multiple episodes per service user (client) and link each episode, which enables a service provider to easily view the service user’s entire treatment journey over time. Reports can be run locally on the individual service provider’s data or on a particular group/area, depending on user access level. Data is validated automatically by LINK as each episode is entered; this gives users the advantage of instantly seeing any issues with the data. Detailed validation messages are displayed to guide the user in making corrections and amendments. Once any serious anomalies are rectified, the system recognises the data as valid for reporting purposes and becomes available for reporting locally and nationally.


LINK validations – sample rejection

Figure 1 shows a rejection that has been raised due to conflicting information in a treatment episode. The message clearly indicates where the issue lies and is a clickable link, leading the user directly to the relevant screen where the information can be updated.




The LINK system is based on the updated 2016 NDTRS questions, and all service providers and data coordinators will require training on filling in the new form accurately, as well as on how to use the new LINK features to their best advantage. As with any new system, training is important and extensive planning and preparation has therefore gone into training service providers on how to use LINK. The approach consists of a phased rollout to each area.


Approach to rollout and training

The first LINK training took place in July 2016 in Kilkenny and since then has been carried out in groups in the HRB office in Dublin and onsite with service providers. The phased rollout started in the South/South East and has been progressing from there. By March 2017, over 230 people from 75 service providers around the country have been trained.


Training preparation – items for action

  • Each service provider will need to identify a super-user, who will be responsible for managing users, e.g. assigning passwords, setting up new users and overseeing the quality of the data.
  • Each service provider will need to assess their internet access:
    • Internet browsers: NDTRS LINK will work on Internet Explorer 9 onwards but is optimal on Internet Explorer 11. It also works on Chrome 50+, Firefox 30+ and Safari 9+.
    • Operating systems: Windows 7 minimum, Mac version 10.8, with all machines requiring 4+MB RAM.
    • Download speed: At least 3 MB.
  • Decide which staff require training:
    • All staff who currently fill NDTRS forms or enter data will need to be trained.2
    • Refresher training for service providers who are already NDTRS compliant will take 3 hours.
    • Full training for service providers new to the NDTRS, or who have poor returns, will take 4 hours.


If your service provider is using eCass/Enclude, a process of consultation with them to incorporate the changes has already begun. Once the changes have been made, service providers using eCass should be able to directly upload their data to the NDTRS LINK system, and then access all the functions within LINK. Again, once the changes have been made, service providers will need to receive training on how to upload their data directly onto the new system.


Next steps

The NDTRS team has been in contact with individual service providers to plan suitable training dates and migration to the new system. If you have not yet been contacted, or have any questions at this time, email the NDTRS team at link@hrb.ie


  1. For further information on the protocol, visit https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/26858/
  2. To view our training video material at the LINK YouTube channel, visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2_D0Cj03WwuwzVfs-kYKaQ
Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 61, Spring 2017
Date:April 2017
Page Range:pp. 22-23
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 61, Spring 2017
Subjects:J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Health services, substance use research
J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Treatment and maintenance > Treatment factors
R Research > Research organization and management
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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