House of Lords Library

NHS and Healthcare Data

Published Friday, August 31, 2018

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the debate in the House of Lords on the motion moved by Lord Freyberg (Crossbench), “that this House takes note of NHS and healthcare data and how that data could be used to improve the health of the nation”. It describes what healthcare data is, the uses to which it might be put and the challenges in doing so. It also outlines the main organisations involved in the area and recent developments in public policy.

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Uses of data within the NHS include improving decision-making in patient care and monitoring both the success of treatments and the performance of care providers. Outside the NHS, data is sought by, for example, academics for research and commercial organisations for monitoring and developing drugs. The Medical Research Council has stated that the UK could be a global leader in the field of health data research. However, there are also challenges in using healthcare data. Some of these are technological, but there is also widespread concern about privacy and public trust, partly in the light of recent breaches of data security.

The use of data in healthcare in England is guided and delivered by a range of organisations. The roles of these bodies have sometimes overlapped, and some past strategies for data usage are no longer considered appropriate. Steps are currently being taken to address these issues. The recently appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has also stated that technology was one of his three “early priorities” and committed £475 million to enhance technology-driven health and care.

Two emerging data-driven technologies with the potential to improve healthcare outcomes are artificial intelligence and genomics. These also highlight the potential commercial value of NHS data and there are debates about how this might be realised. Data and technology might also be used to reduce costs in the NHS, with one estimate putting potential savings at 7 to 11.5 percent of healthcare expenditure.

Lords Library notes LLN-2018-0091

Author: Chris Smith

Topics: Genetics, Health finance, Medical ethics, Research and innovation

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House of Lords Library

The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.