In light of concerns raised in the National Data Guardian’s letter to the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Nicola Perrin, Head of Understanding Patient Data, has issued the following response:

“New digital technologies, such as the DeepMind Streams app, offer real potential to provide better clinical care, but there must be appropriate governance so that everyone can have confidence that patient data is being used responsibly.

The National Data Guardian raises an important question about the legal basis for using patient data to test a new technology, to ensure it is safe before it is introduced in clinical practice. Such testing is essential, but there must be clarity about the regulatory framework and transparency for patients.

These issues are not unique to the DeepMind-Royal Free partnership, and so we hope the Government will provide clear guidance to enable new data-driven technologies to be introduced safely for patient benefit.”

The National Data Guardian’s letter was in response to questions raised about the Royal Free’s partnership with DeepMind. The hospital provided DeepMind with NHS patient data to develop the acute kidney injury alert app, Streams. The partnership has been criticised for its lack of transparency.

The UK’s data privacy regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office, is investigating the case and their final judgement is expected shortly.