YouGov survey shows UK public strongly support the analysis of anonymised NHS patient data for medical research, but do not support this being conducted by multinational tech companies

health data Big data National Health Service (NHS) Data protection Artificial Intelligence (AI) Community consultation United Kingdom

With growing interest in the potential for Artificial Intelligence to find solutions to complex health challenges and relieve pressure on the NHS, a recent YouGov survey of over 2,000 UK adults found that more than three quarters of the public (76%) support the analysis of anonymised NHS patient data by medical researchers in order to develop better treatments and improve diagnosis, disease prevention and care for patients. The research, which includes a survey of more than 100 MPs, also shows that the issue receives overwhelming parliamentary support, with 95% of MPs supporting big data analysis to improve treatment, and 81% saying they would support it as a way to relieve financial pressure on the NHS.

However, the public have strong views on the kinds of organisations they trust to conduct research using their data. The survey shows that only 13% of the public trust multinational tech companies to handle sensitive health data in a confidential manner. Similarly, just one in ten of respondents (11%) said they are happy for NHS data to be analysed by businesses that do not pay tax in the UK while 69% raised concerns about this information being analysed in other countries with different laws governing data security and confidentiality. More than three quarters (76%) of the public say that the UK needs a strong domestic AI sector so that it doesn’t have to be outsourced internationally. 

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