Five mental health trusts have launched a partnership to “revolutionise” dementia research in the UK, using non-identifiable patient data.

Using funding from the National Institute for Health Research, researchers from the trusts will use software developed by the NHS that takes information from patients’ records without revealing sensitive information.

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, West London Mental Health NHS Trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, and Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust will use the Dementia Clinical Record Interactive Search, or D-CRIS, to pool together large data sets.

Dr Matthew Patrick, chief executive at South London and Maudsley, said this is an exciting collaboration which will make the most of patient data held by the NHS.

“D-CRIS software means we can now link information about patients’ conditions directly with their treatment and care, helping to improve their health,” he said.

“For example, for those with schizophrenia, we will be able to identify whether there are some drugs which are associated with less time spent in hospital and have better outcomes for some people. I am looking forward to seeing the results of this collaboration.”

The D-CRIS was developed at the NIHR Dementia Biomedical Research Unit at South London and Maudsley and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

It enables large data sets to be pulled together at scale, meaning that researchers will have access to one million patient records in order to identify trends in the data and investigate why treatments that are effective for some, do not work for others.

The D-CRIS transform the data from the electronic patient record into a pseudonymised database. This is comprised of data recorded in coded and structured form as well as data held in unstructured free text form such as written assessments and clinical correspondence.

Wendy Wallace, chief executive at Camden and Islington said that being able to pool “data and researches in this way” means that the research has greater validity, both in terms of impact and results.

“Any research trials that we conduct will now be across a research population of one million – the impact on improving patient treatment and care will be significant,” she said.

The D-CRIS system has gained ethical approval from an independent committee as a safe, secure and confidential information source for research.