Professor Ben Goldacre’s study on the use of health data for research and analysis called for increased transparency and the adoption of modern open working methods.
Goldacre, director of the Bennett Institute at Oxford University, was order to undertake the review in February 2021 to improve care through the use of data.
The report Better, Wider, Safer: Using Health Data for Research and Analytics calls the NHS data “a deeply buried treasure, which can help prevent suffering and death, around the planet, on a biblical scale”.
He adds that continuing with current working practices would mean “accepting a huge hidden cost of duplication, outdated working methods, data access monopolies, unnecessary risks and, above all, missed opportunities”.
The report makes 185 recommendations, including increasing data transparency by adopting Trusted Research Environments (TREs) as safe virtual spaces for researchers, improving opportunities for data analysts within the NHS and encouragement of open working for all NHS data analyses.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
Goldacre’s review highlights the global significance of NHS data collected over 73 years on tens of millions of patients from an ethnically diverse population.
“Because of this diversity, analytical results created from NHS data can help save lives around the world. The nation’s combined GP records, for example, cover every person in the country; they go back several decades; and they capture information for nearly every health service contact, with huge details about prescriptions, treatments, blood tests, referrals, and diagnoses,” the report continues.
THE WIDER CONTEXT
Goldacre’s review was commissioned to inform the NHS’s upcoming data strategy, which has been published as a draft in June 2021.
Goldacre also co-directed a study on behalf of NHS England analyzing the electronic health records (EHRs) of 17.4 million UK adults, to examine the risk factors associated with death from COVID-19.
Goldacre said: “NHS data is a phenomenal resource that has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, research and the life sciences. But data alone is not enough. We need secure and efficient platforms – and skilled teams – to unlock this potential. It will be hard and technical work. It is inspiring to see the momentum building for better, wider and safer use of health data in so many sectors.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As we move forward, millions of patients could benefit from more effective use of health data, driving innovation and ensuring the NHS can continue to deliver cutting-edge, life-saving care. ”
Dr Layla McCay, Director of Policy, NHS Confederation, said: “Over the past two years, the NHS has been empowered to innovate at pace, developing breakthrough technology and innovative treatments in response to the COVID pandemic. -19. The Goldacre review represents an opportunity to build on these hard-earned gains and is an important piece of the puzzle in defining the direction of health research in a post-pandemic health system.