Public concerns over NHS patient data privacy have surfaced during the election period as the Labour party in particular has sought to highlight the issue. Leaked Government documents suggest a UK-USA trade deal could include provisions enabling the USA to capture the value of NHS data – estimated at £10 billion annually – and moves away from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, aligning instead with weaker Cross-border Privacy Rules.  

Following an Observer report at the weekend that large quantities of patient data have been sold to US and other international pharmaceutical companies for research, MHRA Chief Executive June Raine defended the practice as fully compliant with standard ethical, information governance, legal and regulatory requirements. There is increasing public scrutiny of the issue in light of the reported US trade objectives for access to a free flow of NHS data, including storing the data of NHS patients abroad. This has been further exacerbated by news that an NHS deal with Amazon will give the company access to information on symptoms and conditions that will be copyrightable, meaning the NHS would not benefit financially from any treatments or algorithms developed from the data.

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