Our responsibility as an internationally trusted health and care system is to use all the tools at our disposal to improve the quality and safety of care, including data-driven technologies, in a safe, ethical, evidenced and transparent way. For this reason, we have developed our 10 principles in a code of conduct to enable the development and adoption of safe, ethical and effective data-driven health and care technologies.

These principles were published on 5 September 2018 along with a questionnaire for members of the public to offer feedback. In addition to this online feedback, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England began an extensive period of engagement with industry experts, academics, regulators and patient representative organisations over the last quarter of 2018. This version of the code of conduct reflects that engagement.

The code is designed to recognise that, while data-driven health and care technologies will undoubtedly deliver huge benefits to patients, clinicians, carers, service users and the system as a whole, it is our duty as NHS England and central government to capitalise on these opportunities responsibly. If we do not think about issues such as transparency, accountability, liability, explicability, fairness, justice and bias, it is also possible that the increasing use of data-driven technologies, including AI, within the health and care system could cause unintended harm.

The code of conduct clearly sets out the behaviours we expect from those developing, deploying and using data-driven technologies, to ensure that all those in this chain abide by the ethical principles for data initiatives developed by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics:

  • respect for persons
  • respect for human rights
  • participation
  • accounting for decisions

The code tackles a number of emerging ethical challenges associated with the use of data-driven technologies in the NHS and the wider health and care system. We therefore expect to engage with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation on developing and monitoring the code to ensure it fits with the latest best practice. We will continue to engage with all members of the health and care community.

We will publish further updates at the end of 2019.

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