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Over half of UK public do not trust international tech companies with NHS patient data

Over half of the UK general public believe international technology companies cannot be trusted with handling anonymised NHS patient data, according to a survey.

The YouGov poll, commissioned by health technology business Sensyne Health, showed 57% of the 2,081 respondents thought multinational technology companies were not able to handle patient data in a confidential manner.

But more than three quarters of the public (76%) said they did support the analysis of anonymous NHS patient data by medical researchers in order to develop better treatments and improve diagnosis, prevention of illness and care for patients.

And 60% of those surveyed said if the analysis of anonymised patient data led to quicker diagnosis and better treatment, they believed it would reduce doctors’ and nurses’ workloads – with 88% of 102 MPs, who were polled separately, in agreement.

The majority of those surveyed (76%) said it was important for the UK to have its own ability to use artificial intelligence and health data analysis – rather than relying on international organisations.

A total of 69% of UK adults taking part in the poll said they did not support NHS patient data being looked at in countries with varying governing laws on data security and confidentiality.

Meanwhile, only 11% of participants said they would be happy for NHS information to be analysed by businesses that do not pay tax in the UK.

The separate survey of 102 MPs also revealed 80% believe the Government should ‘take steps’ to ensure NHS data is protected by law.

Commenting on the fndings,  Patients Association chief executive Rachel Power said: ’There’s little doubt that new technologies will play a part in delivering care in future, and the results from this study confirm that most people support the use of anonymised patient data for medical research purposes.

‘There is also widespread support for data to be safeguarded and analysed in the UK – and the Patients Association agrees that data should be used only for research purposes, and never accessed or used inappropriately.’

Ms Power added: ‘The sharing of patients’ information between care institutions is essential to delivering joined-up care that works for the patient, and it is vitally important that this is done – with all appropriate safeguards, to ensure that sensitive information remains confidential.’

The news follows as US president Trump said during his state visit to the UK last week that trade deals including the NHS were ‘on the table’.

At the time, the BMA urged to all Tory leadership candidates to commit to ‘explicit safeguards’ for the NHS from trade deals in light of Brexit.