A review, led by Dr Ben Goldacre and launched by the government, will look into how health data for research and analysis can be used efficiently and safely.

It will complement the forthcoming Data Strategy for Health and Social Care which will set the direction for the use of data in a post-pandemic healthcare system.

The data strategy was recommended by health secretary Matt Hancock in his November 2020 “bureaucracy-busting mission” and formed part of leaked plans to overhaul the NHS to improve data access and interoperability.

Dr Goldacre, who has previously spoken at Digital Health Rewired in 2019, has been asked to report his findings in April 2021.

The director of the DataLab at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, which is part of the University of Oxford, said: “The UK has a phenomenal resource in its raw data, and its people. Our challenge is now in the final lap: we need to find safe, secure, collaborative and efficient ways to turn that raw data into insights and action, to improve patient care for all.

“There is a wealth of expertise around the country, much of it untapped. I’m excited to talk to people across health, social care and research about their experiences and concerns to help drive better, broader, safe use of health data.”

Questions asked as part of the review will include:

  • How do we facilitate access to NHS data by researchers, commissioners, and innovators, while preserving patient privacy?
  • What types of technical platforms, trusted research environments, and data flows are the most efficient, and safe, for which common analytic tasks?
  • How do we overcome the technical and cultural barriers to achieving this goal, and how can they be rapidly overcome?
  • Where (with appropriate sensitivity) have current approaches been successful, and where have they struggled?

Health secretary, Matt Hancock, added: “The pandemic has demonstrated just how important health data is. Ensuring that researchers have secure, transparent and ethical access to health data has the potential to transform health and care and save lives.

“Ben has a wealth of experience in working with health data and I am delighted he has accepted my invitation to undertake this review. I am looking forward to working with Ben and seeing his recommendations over the coming months.”

If you would like to get in touch about the review or share your experience of using health data for research, please contact goldacrereview@dhsc.gov.uk.

We are the hosts of Digital Health Rewired 2021, the must-attend virtual festival celebrating the best of digital health and care, taking place across 15-19 March 2021. Get a flavour of Rewired 2021 from the video below. You can book your place here