More than half of the UK public (56%) don’t trust the NHS to use AI to analyse their patient data – even if it would help the NHS deliver patient results faster, according to research from VMware.

The study found that 45% of the general population were open to the use of AI for improved services, with 44% happy for the NHS to use AI technology to process their patient data if it meant diagnostic tests were processed quicker.

However, one in four people surveyed (25%) were against the NHS using AI to process their patient data.

“While there are vast rewards to be harvested through applying AI to healthcare data, we have to remember that each datapoint relates to a patient, and every patient should trust that their privacy is maintained,” said Darren Adcock, senior product manager at Redcentric, VMware’s only UK strategic partner as part of its Sovereign Cloud initiative.

“By harnessing the power of AI and advanced technologies within a secure and sovereign cloud framework, the NHS ensures that groundbreaking advancements in healthcare never compromise patient privacy and trust.

“Sovereign clouds serve as a pivotal enabler, allowing the NHS to drive progress responsibly, ethically, and with the utmost dedication to patient well-being.”

Worries over the use of AI were not the only points of concern amongst UK patients identified in the study.

The majority (87%) of UK consumers believe that it is important their NHS patient data is stored in the UK, according to research from VMware, but where it is stored is a pressing concern.

Concerns persist over cybersecurity

People still have concerns over cybersecurity when it comes to their personal and sensitive data. Of those who felt it was important their data was stored in the UK, 39% believe that storing it in the UK ensures it complies with UK data privacy regulations. In addition, 21% felt that being stored in the UK makes the data less susceptible to foreign cyber threats.

At the end of June, it was reported that NHS details of more than one million patients have been compromised in a recent ransomware attack on the University of Manchester, underlining that the public may be justified in their concerns, though where the data in question was stored is not currently known.

Guy Bartram, cloud evangelist EMEA at VMware, said: “This consumer opinion matters as it echoes business sentiment. These findings demonstrate the increasing importance of data integrity and sovereignty in helping the NHS, among other highly regulated industries, realise and unlock the true value of their sensitive and critical data. “

Many NHS and social care providers use non-national public clouds, meaning that their patient data is hosted in a provider currently deemed adequate by the UK. If it is hosted in a non-national provider, the data could be subject to external jurisdictional control.

Bartram added: “By embracing cloud sovereignty, the NHS can build public trust and assertively maintain governance, fortify data protection and help unlock the true value of critical and sensitive patient data in delivering patient services.”