Population-level health data has the potential to transform research and public health, and the UK is in a unique position thanks to the NHS and its cradle-to-grave records for a population of over 65 million people.
This was shown during the COVID-19 pandemic, where rapid, secure and efficient connection of health information from places such as hospitals, general practices and testing laboratories supported policy makers. This allowed policy decisions to be made quickly around crucial issues, such as lockdowns, shielding and vaccines.
Understanding how to maintain these positive changes and ensure that there is no reversal in the use of data to improve healthcare is at the core of the review. The review is expected to be completed towards the end of 2023.
Patient groups will be consulted throughout the process and public and patient voices will be embedded in the governance of the review.
About the review
‘Unifying Health Data in the UK’ has been commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer for England and UK Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, NHS England’s National Director of Transformation, Dr Timothy Ferris, and the UK’s National Statistician Professor Sir Ian Diamond, with the support of the Chief Medical Officers in the devolved nations.
It will be informed by wide consultation and guided by a panel of leading experts from organisations including NHS England, the Office for National Statistics, the UK Health Security Agency, the Department for Health and Social Care, relevant national organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and others.
About Cathie Sudlow
Professor Cathie Sudlow was commissioned to lead this review in light of her expertise in pioneering data science initiatives. Cathie is Chief Scientist and Deputy Director of Health Data Research UK and Director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Data Science Centre, which enables data-led research to improve heart and circulatory health. She is also Chair of Neurology and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.
Cathie’s research interests have always been firmly embedded in the world of big data. Over the last 15 years, her focus has been on leading large-scale, collaborative, open-science initiatives that enable a better understanding of the causes and consequences of health and disease across the life course, leading to new and improved approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
From 2011 to 2019, she led efforts to follow the health of UK Biobank participants through linkage to national health datasets. As Director of the BHF Data Science Centre, she helped establish the NHS England National Secure Data Environment, which enables secure access to de-identified data from health settings.
Cathie is fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was awarded an OBE for services to medical research in 2020.
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BHF Data Science Centre
Enabling data-led research to improve heart and circulatory health.
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