Introducing patient data

Everyone should be able to find out how patient data is used and why, what the safeguards are, and how decisions are made.

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  • Why is it important to use patient data?

    There is huge potential to use patient data to improve health, care and services across the NHS. The information can help to:

    • improve individual care and patient safety
    • understand more about disease to improve diagnosis
    • plan and evaluate NHS services
    Why it is important to use patient data
  • How is patient data used?

    Patient data must be kept safe and secure. Everyone should be able to find out how data is used and the answers to common questions like:

    • Who can access patient data?
    • How is data kept safe?
    • Can I be identified from the data?
    • What choices do I have?
    How patient data is used and kept safe

Why do we need to talk about patient data?

Hear people explain why it's important to use patient data and why we need to talk about it more. 

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Frequently asked questions

Everyone in England should be able to access summary information from their GP records online. However, the number of people using this system is low, and the information that is available varies between different GP practices. If you want to access your health records online, speak to reception at your GP practice.

At the moment, very few people have online access to hospital records. The Government has committed that by April 2018 everyone will have access to an online personal health record that includes information from all of their health and care interactions. This is an important goal that will help us feel empowered to manage our care better.

Read how patient access to their medical records has transformed care from a patient's perspective and GP's perspective

You can find out more here:

It is essential that patient data is kept safe and secure, to protect your confidential information. There are four ways that privacy is protected:

  • Removing details that identify a person and taking further steps to anonymise information. 
  • Using an independent review process to make sure the reason for using patient data is appropriate.
  • Ensuring strict legal contracts are in place before data is transferred or accessed.
  • Implementing robust IT security.

Find out more about the safeguards.

A new national data opt-out was introduced in May 2018, following recommendations from the National Data Guardian. People can opt out of having their confidential patient information shared for reasons beyond their individual care, for example for research and planning.

Find out more about the national data opt-out.

NHS Digital, the central repository of NHS information, is not allowed to sell data for profit but operates on a cost recovery basis. It is allowed to charge for the cost of processing and delivering the service, but not for data itself. The charge depends on the type of application, amount of data requested, and the amount of work that NHS Digital will need to do.

Individual NHS Trusts will enter into different arrangements when working in partnership with companies, depending on their requirements and the services that are offered.  

As new digital technologies develop, we are beginning to understand more about the value of data. While people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of the NHS ‘selling’ data, there would also be concerns if valuable data is given away to companies for free. There needs to be much more discussion about how the NHS and patients can benefit from the unique resource of NHS data. For example, if patient data is used to develop a new algorithm, should the NHS get access to that service at a reduced rate? Should the NHS be able to make a profit from commercial access to data?