UK's NHS wants to use trusted research environments (TREs) to unlock the power of secure data access 


In the last twelve months, several conversations between the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), their stakeholders, and the public took place concerning patient data and the future of health data sharing. Following these conversations, the NHS proposed a new approach to the way they will collect primary health data. After many public debates about the need for sharing health data the results led to moving data away from a release system to a data access system.

According to Angela Wood, Angela Wood, a Professor of Health Data Science at University of Cambridge:

“In a data release system, we produce a minimised cut of data that has been requested and send it to the requestor who then analyses it in their own system. This approach has been in place for many years, with contractual safeguards around the data, oversight of releases by independent bodies to ensure appropriate decision-making, and a robust audit process to make sure that data is handled by recipients ethically and securely. In a data access system, we flip this on its head by keeping the data within the full control of the data custodian (such as ourselves) and only providing secure access to data to approved researchers within the security perimeters of a Trusted Research Environment (TRE).” 1

The NHS is bringing their partners into a system called Trusted Research Environments (TREs), controlled digital environments used to store or analyse sensitive data securely. According to Eva Simmonds, NHS Digital’s Programme Head for GP Data, sharing health data will help NHS to plan their services effectively and be more responsive to the needs of their patients. Read more about the benefits and challenges of health data sharing.

UK's NHS wants to use trusted research environments (TREs) to unlock the power of secure data access 
Image credit:
Open Access Government, 2022

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