Medical details of NHS patients could soon be shared with private healthcare firms so that Britain can become a world leader in life sciences.
David Cameron has unveiled controversial plans to allow drug companies to access NHS clinical data, so that every patient in the UK can become a ‘research patient’ and help fight against disease.
NHS patient data will be made available to private drug companies
The pharmaceutical and medical research industry in Britain is huge, employing 150,000 people and generating £19 billion a year. Research funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) has earned 29 Nobel Prizes.
But despite having the most well-equipped laboratories and access to the finest scientists in the world, British Pharma is in trouble, thanks to global recession, increased competition from developing countries such as India and visa restrictions on non-EU scientists.
David Cameron’s new plans would mean all patient data is used for medical research unless they choose to opt out. Under the plans, NHS records would be made anonymous, but it is not clear whether private firms would have to pay to access them.
David Cameron said: "Let me be clear, this does not threaten privacy, it doesn't mean anyone can look at your health records, but it does mean using anonymous data to make new medical breakthroughs.
"The end result will be that every willing patient is a research patient and every time you use the NHS you are playing a part in the fight against disease at home and around the world."
Although Patient Concern has voiced worries about the proposal, the pharmaceutical industry said "robust" safeguards were already in place and it was impossible to trace back anonymised data to individuals.
"We need people to understand that the benefits for all of us - our children and people who have got illnesses - are absolutely essential when it comes to using health records for research," said Neil Patel, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
Patients with private medical insurance often have access to the new drugs and treatments researched and designed by the British pharmaceutical industry before they are available for use on the NHS. Compare health insurance quotes online now to make sure you are covered for exciting new medical developments.
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