The UK’s national institute for health data science has been awarded more than £70 million to help accelerate access to health data and improve treatments and the delivery of care.
The investment, from nine major government and charity research funders, will help Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) tackle major global health crises, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The UK is in a unique position to realise the potential of health data, thanks to the NHS and its cradle-to-grave records for a population of more than 65 million people.
However, safe and secure access to this data for researchers is often a lengthy and fragmented process.
HDR works with the NHS and partners in universities, charities, industry and regulators in bringing the UK’s health data together to make discoveries that improve people’s lives.
Minister of State for Health Will Quince, said:
“Data is key to better understanding the health of individuals and the population as a whole.
“With increased use of data we can speed up diagnoses and even predict outcomes and prevent conditions from developing.”
Over next five years, HDR UK will follow a plan to increase the speed, scale and quality of health data science and so enable new discoveries.
UK-wide, collaborative research programmes will drive forward the use of large datasets in different areas, from cancer and heart disease to respiratory disease, from the use of medicines to looking at social and environmental impacts on health.
The current fragmentation and lack of standardisation in the data will be tackled by working with many different organisations, building capabilities and supporting real team science.
Meanwhile, patients and the public will continue to be involved throughout the Institute’s work – ensuring that access to data for research is enabled by trustworthy, safe and secure systems and generates public benefit.
HDR UK Director, Professor Andrew Morris, said:
“The transformative potential of health data research is a long way from being realised in full.
“Only a small proportion of NHS, biomedical and health-relevant data is accessible for research.
“Our work is far from done if we are to benefit patients and improve lives – this significant funding award is a step change in ensuring we achieve this mission.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said:
“Health data will define the next era of research, but we are only just beginning to tap into its power to accelerate discoveries.
“We look forward to continuing our close relationship with HDR UK, building on the momentum of the last five years to produce real improvement for patients.”
Dr Catherine Elliot, Director of Research at Cancer Research UK, added:
“We are so pleased to be supporting Health Data Research UK’s work to unite the country’s health data and enable the scientific community to generate new insights.
“This collaboration will help us work towards our goals, outlined in our research data strategy, of maximising the scientific value of data to improve patient outcomes.”