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Data access for researchers will help everyone

Access to electronic patient records is invaluable to help facilitate medical research that could improve thousands of lives. However, the Wellcome Trust recognises these benefits will only be achieved if the public and doctors have confidence that personal information will be handled confidentially and securely.

We believe it is crucial all NHS patients understand how their information may be used, and why research using such data is important. Publicity material should also make clear the safeguards in place to protect privacy, and make clear that patients can opt out of use of their identifiable data in research if they wish.

We do recognise personal information contained in patient records is potentially sensitive and private. Clear mechanisms of accreditation and accountability are crucial to ensure such information is safeguarded. We have been working with GPs, researchers and patient groups to develop guidance for best practice. If patients and doctors can trust the processes used for accessing information, everyone will be able to benefit from the significant research potential of medical records.

We welcome the Connecting for Health consultation on this. Our full response is available at www.wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/Policy/Consultation-responses/index.htm.

Dr Mark Walport, director, The Wellcome Trust

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