GM's Secure Data Environment for Health and Care

How data from the GM Care Record is being used by researchers for population health research

Greater Manchester, as part of a collaborative across the North-West, is to begin the development of a sub-national Secure Data Environment for Research & Development. SDE’s are intended to enable NHS data to be safely and securely accessed by researchers for population health research.

Secure Data Environments (formerly known as “Trusted Research Environments”) are highly secure computing environments that provide remote access to health data for approved researchers to use in health and care research that can save and improve lives. SDE’s put virtual walls around data to ensure that users can only access data for which they are approved and provide secure access to analytical and statistical tools for conducting research. The GM Care Record (GMCR) will be one of the datasets that can be analysed through the SDE.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing of data into the GMCR accelerated significantly and was used to successfully deliver several research studies into the impact of COVID-19 on the Greater Manchester population by deploying a tactical “Trusted Research Environment”.

Since then, significant progress has been made to agree information governance arrangements across GM for the continued usage of this data for non-COVID purposes, including a single Joint Controller Agreement and pan-ICS Data Sharing Agreements signed by all data controllers. This has the potential for the SDE to answer deeper questions about the region’s health and care beyond the pandemic.

Work is underway in Greater Manchester to identify the “lighthouse” studies or use cases that will first make use of the SDE and to prove its value to the GM health and care system.  Further announcements will be made as these studies are identified and when results of the studies are published. Permission for this use of patient information is also being sought though the NHS Health Research Authority’s Confidentiality Advisory Group.

Read more about the work in GM on the SDE in this blog from the project lead, Bradley Quinn.

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