The Department of Health has published a strategy for allowing aggregate and anonymised patient data to be shared with health care providers and life sciences businesses to drive innovation, better systems, integration, efficiencies, better research and a growing life sciences sector. The data will be aggregated from patients who consent after having had clear explanations as to the uses of their data. The Department of Health has considered that although anonymisation will protect patients’ data, it may still be possible in some cases to identify individual patients by piecing together other information such as the hospital, admission date and approximate age of the patient. Although the risks would be low, the Department would therefore consider each case and consult with the Information Commissioner’s Office where desirable, and remove low numbers where the risks are higher.
Paul Gershlick, a Partner at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP, comments: “This is a sensible approach. Sharing data can bring many benefits. But data and privacy issues need to be carefully watched to achieve best outcomes.”