Somerset NHS Trust investment close to worthless
In early morning (8 April) trading on the London Stock Exchange), the value of Sensyne plc plunged to just 1.5p.
In November 2020 Somerset NHS Trust accepted an investment in Sensyne of over 1.4m shares. That was in exchange for providing 600,000 Somerset residents’ medical data – albeit anonymised.
The Trust has continued to assert this will have no impact on its finances.
The investment was worth over £1.7m in November 2020. Today the shares are worth approximately £20,000.
Sensyne has run out of money despite a refinancing in January this year. This morning it reported having just £1.5m cash left and it continues to be heavily loss making.
A deal is being proposed to rescue the company. As part of that deal the company will lose its AIM listing. A new Chief Executive has been appointed and Lord Drayson, the company founder will step down from the board.
As a private company the shares will no longer be easily tradable. And the value of the shares will be heavily diluted by the new shares and convertible loan notes being issued to refinance the company.
If the Trust do not recognise that they have lost out, Sensyne apparently does.
A statement from the company this morning noted “The Board and the Noteholders recognise the importance of the NHS Trusts relationships in the future of a private, restructured and refocused business and the Noteholders have agreed that they will commit to take reasonable steps to exercise their rights under the amended and restated NPA in a manner that: (i) continues the Company’s ethical use of patient data; (ii) is consistent with the Company’s goal of enabling the Company to realise its mission to become the leader in the ethical application of clinical AI to health data, to improve patient care and accelerate medical research; and (iii) allows for a sustainable commercial model to be put in place with the NHS Trusts that reflects the value of patient data supplied to the Company by the NHS Trusts.“
It is not very specific. But it does recognise that the NHS Trusts who engaged with Sensyne, including Somerset, have lost out.
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How you should share patient data by Professor Ben Goldacre who is a director of the Bennett Institute at the University of Oxford:
On the 6th of April, I published a review for Sajid Javid, the health secretary, on how we can achieve better, safer use of NHS data. The challenge is huge, as is our report with (apologies) 185 recommendations.
The NHS was an early adopter of digital records and this has built a phenomenal dataset: the diagnoses, treatments, tests and outcomes for almost every citizen, over decades. Other nations are catching up. Only the NHS covers such a huge, ethnically diverse population.
For years people have discussed how data can improve patient care. But inertia and incrementalism have limited progress.
Access to this data is through ad hoc mechanisms: we send out copies of millions of patients’ records, for thousands of data projects, to countless analysts, researchers and innovators. Names and addresses are removed to “pseudonymise” the records. But it can be simple to re-identify a patient by finding a unique match for the things you already know about them: their age, approximate locations over time, the dates they gave birth or key features from their medical history.
The system has set out to manage these risks — but by wrapping every project in red tape. Analysts complain that “information governance” delays lifesaving work, or blocks it outright.
Meanwhile at least two million people have opted out of their NHS records being used in research altogether, as privacy campaigners and professional bodies complain that patients are not protected when NHS data is distributed so widely.
There is a better way, and it now has strong support, with funding, from government. We can build secure platforms — “trusted research environments” — where analysts come to work on the data. These platforms protect patients’ privacy. They can share transparent logs of all activity to earn public trust. They can eradicate red tape.
They are also more efficient. They avoid duplication of data storage, curation and analysis. They can support, or oblige, analysts to share their computer code, for review and efficient re-use. They can help us to embrace software developers as a core part of research. For less than the cost of digitising one hospital, we can finally realise the full value in 73 years of NHS data. In doing so we can save lives on a biblical scale.
What did the contract with Sensyne have to say about corporate changes – insolvency, takeover and changes of articles – or did no one at Somerset NHS Trust think to include some precautionary wording about withdrawal so that new owners cannot use the data without renegotiation? If not why not? Who advised the Trust on the deal? We should be told.