Somerset NHS data sale under spotlight

The Leveller® has written two articles about the sale of Somerset NHS Foundation Trust data. The data has been sold to UK listed company Sensyne plc in exchange for shares and cash. The sale of the data was (is) controversial. The Leveller® challenged the way the principle of the contract. We also challenged the price the data was sold for. We asked questions about anonymisation of data and patient opt outs.

There was initially no evidence that people who had opted out of data sharing would have that honoured. Eventually after questions from The Leveller®, the trust clarified that these data opt outs would indeed be recognised.

However questions remain about how anonymous anonymised data is. We are not the only ones to have asked questions about this sort of data sale. But inevitably our focus was on the sale involving a Somerset trust.

Today the website Digital Health has exposed the existence of a letter from Simon Eccles, CCIO (Chief Clinical Information Officer) for Health and Social Care. There is a link to their piece here https://www.digitalhealth.net/2019/06/nhse-chief-exec-data-sharing-restrictions/:

This is an important revelation. Partly because the letter was dated on 28 May 2019. Partly because it “asks NHS organisations “do not enter into agreements granting third parties exclusive access to the raw data they hold (healthcare or operational)”.

The fact is that after receiving this letter, the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust went ahead and signed the deal with Sensyne plc in November 2020. Digital Health revealed that the letter adds that the request was made to buy time so that a policy framework for such agreements is developed.

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