The government’s strategy will make it easier for researchers to access the data they need to develop life-changing treatments
“We will improve trust in data, which is the currency that data-driven technologies need to function. We will work with the public, including people working in health and care, to develop a new pact on data, which will set out how we will use health and care data, and what the public has the right to expect." Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary
A new data strategy for health and social care will help improve outcomes for millions of patients, the government has said.
The strategy, originally published in draft form in June 2021, has now been published in full. Entitled Data Saves Lives: Reshaping Health and Social Care with Data, it focuses on seven broad commitments:
In a foreword to the document, Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, writes that it won’t be possible to deliver change “unless we embrace the digital revolution and the opportunities that data-driven technologies provide.”
Launching the strategy at London Tech Week’s HealthTech Summit this week, Javid said: “We will improve trust in data, which is the currency that data-driven technologies need to function.
“We will work with the public, including people working in health and care, to develop a new pact on data, which will set out how we will use health and care data, and what the public has the right to expect.
“This will include the ability to opt out of sharing data. Because although we know that most people want their data to be used for good, we will make the opt-out system simpler and more transparent.”
The strategy includes a set of data architecture principles, including tackling the environmental costs of data storage by using cloud-based storage wherever possible. This will support the NHS’s commitment to tackling climate change and reaching net zero by 2040 for the emissions it controls directly, the document says.
Javid said that social care “lags behind the NHS when it comes to digital transformation.” This is something he plans to change: “Our social care system is home to some of our most vulnerable in our society, and so the opportunities on offer are even greater. This strategy shows our determination to close the digital divide that exists between the NHS and social care.”
One significant commitment in the strategy is to make Trusted Research Environments (TREs) the default for NHS and adult social care organisations. These will provide secure access to de-identified data for research, so that data linked to an individual will never leave a secure server and can only be used for agreed research purposes. This expansion in the use of TREs was a core recommendation of the Goldacre Review, published in April.
Ben Goldacre, author of the review and director of the Bennett Institute at the University of Oxford, described the new strategy as “momentous” because ‘it reaches beyond aphorisms and gets into crucial technical detail.” He said that the move to use TREs was “historic”, adding: “The small number of secure platforms described in this document will finally unlock the vast potential in all patient data for research and for improving NHS care. Done right, they will address the privacy concerns of the past and drive faster, more reliable, more secure and more efficient use of data, from more teams than ever before.”
We are pleased in particular with progress on:
We believe that work is still needed on: