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Data on millions of NHS patients to be used to find illness cures

One of the seven new data hubs will focus exclusively on cancer

Information about millions of NHS patients’ medical histories will be used in an attempt to find cures for conditions such as cancer, asthma and mental illness.

Seven new data hubs will give doctors, scientists and academics access to data about who gets ill in the first place and who responds best to treatment.

The hubs, which will start work on 1 October, are being created by Health Data Research (HDR) UK, a non-profit-making body funded by 10 organisations including the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research and the Wellcome Trust.

The HDR will facilitate access to information about patients’ treatment in hospitals across the UK, the results of x-rays and scans, what drugs people were prescribed and what sort of recovery people experienced, the Guardian reports.

All data processed through the hubs will be strictly anonymised to ensure that no details about an individual’s history or outcome are ever disclosed.

“Any decisions about how the data will be used will always put patient privacy, safety and benefit first and we have multiple safeguards in place to ensure this happens,” Dr Andrew Morris, the HDR’s director and a diabetes specialist,” told the newspaper.

One of the hubs, Data-Can, will focus exclusively on cancer. Another will specialise in eye health and another in inflammatory bowel conditions, such as Crohn’s disease.

Almost 120 public, private, academic and charitable organisations will participate.

“Creating these hubs will, for the first time, give researchers the opportunity to use data at scale to research the genetic, lifestyle and social factors behind many familiar common diseases and identify revealing data trends which may help with finding cures or treatments,” said Morris.