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Patient data saves lives

NHS Digital’s Clinical Director and Caldicott Guardian Arjun Dhillon talks about the benefits the improved GP data system will bring including keeping your data more secure

Patient data saves lives. It has been vital during Covid-19 in ensuring hospitals weren’t overwhelmed; identifying and protecting the most vulnerable and rolling out the vaccines programme across patient groups.

Rapid access to patient data provided by NHS Digital was key to the University of Oxford’s trial, which found that dexamethasone treatment reduced deaths by one-third. 

By April 2021, the drug had saved 22,000 lives in the UK and 1m more worldwide.

This is why the majority of the public support patient data being used for the benefit of the NHS and to improve treatment. They also expect that this data is secure and used in a way that respects privacy. 

We understand this. Indeed this is why NHS Digital has built a new system to manage the data that are already being collected and used every day. The new GP data for planning and research system brings more security and wider oversight to ensure data can only be accessed for health research and care planning.

Only the minimum data required for any project is shared, and this data go through a process so nobody can be identified from them. 

We don’t share names, addresses or NHS numbers. We don’t sell any data and will never provide data for insurance, marketing or promotional purposes — or for anything other than healthcare research and planning. 

We publish a list of organisations using our data, and they’re audited to ensure it's being used for the purpose they were requested. All requests to access GP data are scrutinised by two independent panels, including GP representatives. 

We’ve worked with patient groups, GP representatives, NHS commissioners, researchers, the National Data Guardian and other organisations. We’ve listened to their advice to ensure our system meets the needs of patients, clinicians and researchers. 

While we hope people will want their data to support life-saving medical research and clinical planning for their NHS services, it’s everyone’s right to opt out at any time. 

Last edited: 4 June 2021 3:54 pm