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Government launches review of use of health data for research

The review, which will be led by Ben Goldacre, will look at home-efficient and safe use of health data for research and analysis

The Department for Health and Social Care has launched a review into the use of health data for research and analysis purposes.

The review will be led by Ben Goldacre, the director of the DataLab at Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford.

Goldacre will look at a range of issues relating to the use of health data, including how to facilitate access while also preserving patient privacy, as well as how to overcome the technical and cultural barriers to achieving it.

Health secretary Matt Hancock, who asked Goldacre to undertake the review, which will set the direction for data use in the NHS post-Covid-19, said the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of health data.

“Ensuring researchers have secure, transparent and ethical access to health data has the potential to transform health and care and save lives,” he said.

“Ben has a wealth of experience in working with health data and I am delighted he has accepted my invitation to undertake this review.

“I am looking forward to working with Ben and seeing his recommendations over the coming months.”

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The review will also look at how issues like data quality and “the completeness and harmonisation across the system” affect the range of ways research can be used across health and social care, and how data quality issues can be resolved. It will also include how to incentivise and resource “useful data science” by both public and private sectors.

Commenting on the review, Goldacre said the UK has a ”phenomenal resource in its raw data, and its people”.

“Our challenge is now in the final lap: we need to find safe, secure, collaborative and efficient ways to turn that raw data into insights and action, to improve patient care for all,” he said.

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