Understanding Patient Data is today launching a series of animations to explain how data saves lives.

In the age of digital communication and high-tech research, sharing data is more important than ever before. When the NHS was founded in 1948 things were quite different. Our medical records lived in dusty drawers, alone and unloved, with their life-saving potential often untapped. Today it’s a different story. From dementia to diabetes to asthma, by looking at patient data across the NHS, we can improve patient care.

Better use of data is essential to speed up diagnosis, research new treatments, plan better NHS services and monitor the safety of drugs. And yet, more than two thirds of the population feel they don’t know how patient data is used in the NHS. Without enough information, people may worry about how data is collected, stored or used. 

The animation series has been developed in partnership with charities, patients and clinicians to try to address this gap in information. Following the journeys of patients with cancer, a heart attack, diabetes, dementia and asthma, they show the huge range of ways data is used to improve care, and the safeguards that are in place to protect confidentiality.

The measures to protect data will be given increasing attention over the next few months. In May, new data protection legislation comes into force, with clearer requirements for fair processing and transparency, and stronger penalties for misuse of data. A new national opt-out, recommended by the National Data Guardian, will also be introduced across the health system at the same time, allowing people some choice about how their confidential data can be shared.   

These are very important steps forward, and we look forward to seeing clear information from the NHS explaining how patient data will be used and protected. While sharing patient data will never be completely risk-free, the NHS must demonstrate there are robust measures in place to ensure that any risks are as low as reasonably possible.  

Nicola Perrin, head of Understanding Patient Data, commented:

“Everyone should be able to find out how patient data is used and why. We hope these animations will provide a starting point for charities and patient groups to begin to talk their members and supporters about the importance of using data, and help people find out more about how data is kept safe.”

You can watch the animations here

The animations have been produced with a cc-by licence and are available for reuse by anyone.

To see the animations, and for further information about how and why patient data is used, visit the UPD website: www.patientdata.org.uk