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How Will Data Sales Help Innovation in the NHS?

runner with data across feet

The NHS stores incredible numbers of data. It holds the medical data of roughly 65 million people.  

Delling anonymised NHS data, as proposed by Sir Tony Blair and Lord Hague, is a transformative approach to enhancing public services and research. 

Below, I explore the implications of this proposition, examining how data utilisation can catalyse advancements in the NHS.

Leveraging Data for Healthcare Innovation

The proposal to establish a new NHS Data Trust (NHSDT) is a strategic move. It could put the NHS data as a valuable asset. And the data will be anonymised data, apparently. It’ll be sold to research entities and biotech firms, and the NHSDT aims to generate financial returns that bolster health services. 

This initiative could accelerate advancements in medical research, leading to breakthroughs in treatment methods and healthcare delivery. Could, is the key word. And many people will be worried about how anonymous their data is. 

However, the envisioned transparent governance model would ensure data usage aligns with public health objectives. 

Enhancing Patient Care through Technological Advancements

The NHS could (finally) improve patient care. Using patient data to improve the surgical pathway and surgical equipment, such as a self-retaining surgical retractor, is one example.

It could also improve the patient flow and the entire process, from admission to discharge. Or it could help get them an appointment in the first place.

And then there’s the proposed MediMind laboratory network. It aims to employ AI in doctors and reduce the strain on healthcare. These advancements could be incredible for patient care.

Addressing Biosecurity and Global Health Challenges

The establishment of the said ‘ ‘UK Biosecurity Taskforce”, as suggested in the report, highlights the importance of learning from the COVID-19 pandemic (massive learnings) to develop plans for biosecure societies.

That includes new safeguards in advanced biotechnology to prevent future global health crises. The UK and the NHS definitely weren’t ready. The task force could be crucial in ensuring that the UK can actually tackle the threats.

Fostering a Dynamic Biotech Ecosystem in the UK

Transition is ambitious. However, transitioning the UK towards building trillion-dollar companies in the biotech sector could see it become a leader in the field – but the transition is massive. And if you’ve worked in the NHS in the UK, you’ll know change isn’t always…well-managed.

Still, with the biotech industry valued at over £4.7 trillion, economic growth and innovation potential are substantial.

Creating an environment that aids emerging biotech companies and incentivises entrepreneurs is essential. That could involve reforming pension funds and capital markets or setting conducive spinout terms to enhance the UK’s competitiveness in the global biotech landscape.

The NHS needs help. Whether that help will be the data sale is anyone’s guess. In October 2023 alone, there were over 72,191 A&E attendees per day alone.

The average wait time was 70 minutes before treatment, but anyone who’s visited A&E knows it can be so much longer. And that doesn’t even touch on the issue of cancelled appointments and staffing issues. 

The need for a more robust health system has gone beyond essential. Do you think data sales will help it?