lab technicians using computers

Covid impacts on cancer patients shown in NHS Digital data

NHS Digital have shared cancer data with researchers to enable them to understand the impact of COVID-19 on people with cancer.

The data has been shared in the NHS Digital Trusted Research Environment (TRE), which is a secure space where authorized researchers can access necessary data for approved projects.

The sharing of the data will allow researchers to gain a better understanding of how Covid has impacted referral, diagnosis, treatments and outcomes of patients with cancer.

Recently, the government announced up to £200 million in investment to ensure secure access to NHS data through TREs and digital clinical trial services.

This will mean that the NHS can continue to deliver treatment and any new treatments derived from the research, faster while also improving patient care and developing the NHS TRE further.

DATA-CAN is the leading UK Health Data Research Hub for Cancer and has worked with NHS Digital to provide this secure access to cancer specific data.

Professor Geoff Hall, DATA-CAN’s clinical lead, professor of digital health and honorary consultant in medical oncology at the Leeds Cancer Centre, said: “As a cancer doctor with a specialist interest in health data research, utilising this national Trusted Research Environment allows us to better understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on NHS cancer services.

"The same data, used effectively and responsibly and with the support of patients and the public, has the potential to drive research into new, more effective ways to diagnose cancer early and could support the development of new treatments to improve people’s lives. It is a really exciting development and has the potential to be a real game-changer.”

Since the pandemic, timely access to data has shown to be a crucial factor in reshaping the health and social care system for the greater good of patients. AN example of this being NHS DigiTrials, which runs data services to support clinical trials, reducing the time, effort and cost of developing new treatments for patients.

Michael Chapman, NHS Digital Director of Research and Clinical Trials said: “Safe access to data is absolutely vital in helping medical researchers explore the impact of COVID-19 on cancer services and outcomes, and more widely to understand the causes of cancer and how best to diagnose, prevent and treat it. NHS Digital is committed to making data accessible to researchers in a safe and trusted environment that safeguards patient data at the same time as allowing for world-class research.”

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