• NHSX to host “centre” to manage commercial deals for NHS data
  • Tech unit will give advice and set policy
  • DHSC reiterates ban on NHS providers entering exclusive data sharing deals

Matt Hancock’s new tech unit is assuming new controls of the sharing of NHS patient data with industry, after banning trusts from striking their own exclusive deals.

In new guidance, released on Monday afternoon, the Department of Health and Social Care said NHSX would become host of a “national centre for expertise” to provide advice to NHS on sharing patient data.

NHSX will:

  • Set future policy for sharing NHS data with industry;
  • Provide commercial and legal advice to trusts wanting to share data, including standards contract and tools for assessing the “value” of data sharing agreement;
  • Build relationships with industry, research, and the NHS to identify “opportunities for agreements that support data-driven research and innovation”; and
  • Set standards for transparency and report of agreement between companies and the NHS to share patient data.

The guidance said the centre “would oversee the policy framework, provide specialist commercial and legal advice to NHS organisations entering data agreements, develop standard contracts and guidance, and ensure that the advantages of scale in the NHS can deliver benefits for patients and the NHS”.

In addition, the guidance reiterated the ban the prevents trusts from entering exclusive deals to share patient data, first reported by HSJ in May. It said: “agreements should not be entered into which grant one organisation sole (exclusive) right of access to or use of raw NHS data, either patient or operational data”.

Other principles include not undermining the ability to share NHS patient data at a national level, transparency, and ensuring the NHS gets “fair value” from any commercial agreement to share data.

It said the guidance should apply to all NHS organisations looking at agreements that “include a commercial partner or where the outputs could be commercialised, regardless of the type of organisation the NHS is partnering with”.

The move comes amid a renewed effort by policymakers to collect, link and share NHS patient data regionally and nationally, and use it to support industry, particularly the life sciences.

NHSX will be hiring a new “head of centre” and plans to start operating this year. The full scope of powers of NHSX’s centre will be published in a framework later this year.