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Don’t shut innovative firms out of NHS walled gardens


Small companies may struggle to use secure environments for patient data, says Emma Lawrence

As a cradle-to-grave healthcare system, the NHS has some of the most comprehensive datasets in the world. But they are also fragmented, messy and difficult to access. Previous attempts to improve this situation have caused public outcries and mass opt-outs due to a lack of public dialogue. But not making full use of the UK’s health data to save and improve lives is itself damaging and unethical.

In April, the Goldacre Review recommended trusted research environments, also known as secure data environments, as the way to balance privacy with research; this was incorporated into the government’s ‘data saves lives’ strategy. SDEs act as secure reference libraries, allowing verified researchers to analyse datasets without moving or copying them. 

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