Censuses have traditionally been a key source of localised information on the state of a nation's health. Many countries are now adopting alternative approaches to the traditional census, placing such information at risk. The purpose of this paper is to inform debate about whether existing social surveys could provide an adequate ‘base’ for alternative model-based small area estimates of health data in a post traditional census era. Using a case study of 2011 UK Census questions on self-assessed health and limiting long term illness, we examine the extent to which the results from three large-scale surveys – the Health Survey for England, the Crime Survey for England and Wales and the Integrated Household Survey – conform to census output. Particularly in the case of limiting long term illness, the question wording renders comparisons difficult. However, with the exception of the general health question from the Health Survey for England all three surveys meet tests for convergent validity.