Patients and Visitors
As a NHS organisation we may use personally-identifiable information to conduct research to improve health, care and services. If you agree to take part in a research study we will use information provided by yourself, your medical records and your GP. We will only use information that we need for the research study. We will let very few people know your name or contact details, and only if they really need it for this study.
Everyone involved in this study will keep your data safe and secure. We will also follow all privacy rules.
At the end of the study we will save some of the data in case we need to check it and with your permission in some cases it may be retained for future research.
We will make sure no-one can work out who you are from the reports we write.
The following information gives you more detail.
All NHS organisations are expected to participate and support health and care research. The Health Research Authority (HRA) set standards for NHS organisations to make sure they protect your privacy and comply with the law when they are involved in research. HRA research ethics committees review research studies to make sure that the research uses of data about you are in the public interest, and meet ethical standards.
Health and care research may be exploring prevention, diagnosis or treatment of disease, which includes health and social factors in any disease area. Research may be sponsored by companies developing new medicines or medical devices, NHS organisations, universities or medical research charities. The research sponsor decides what information will be collected for the study and how it will be used.
Health and care research should serve the public interest, which means that research sponsors have to demonstrate that their research serves the interests of society as a whole. They do this by following the UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research. They also have to have a legal basis for any use of personally-identifiable information.
In clinical trials, the researchers are collecting data that will tell them whether one treatment is better or worse than other. The information they collect will show how safe a treatment is, or whether it is making a difference to your health. Different people can respond differently to a treatment. By collecting information from lots of people, researchers can use statistics to work out what effect a treatment is having.
Other types of research will collect data from lots of health records to look for patterns. It might be looking to see if any problems happen more in patients taking a medicine. Or to see if people who have screening tests are more likely to stay healthier.
Some research will use blood tests or samples along with information about the patient’s health. Researchers may be looking at changes in cells or chemicals due to a disease.
All research should only use the patient data that it really needs to do the research. The type data collected during a research study will be described to you in a participant information sheet.
When you agree to take part in a research study, the sponsor will collect the minimum personally-identifiable information needed for the purposes of the research project. Information about you will be used in the ways needed to conduct and analyse the research study. NHS organisations may keep a copy of the information collected about you. Depending on the needs of the study, the information that is passed to the research sponsor may include personal data that could identify you. You can find out more about the use of patient information for the study you are taking part in from the research team or the study sponsor. You can find out who the study sponsor is from the information you were given when you agreed to take part in the study.
For some research studies, you may be asked to provide information about your health to the research team, for example in a questionnaire. Sometimes information about you will be collected for research at the same time as for your clinical care, for example when a blood test is taken. In other cases, information may be copied from your health records. Information from your health records may be linked to information from other places such as central NHS records, or information about you collected by other organisations. You will be told about this when you agree to take part in the study.
If you take part in some types of research, like clinical trials, some of the research team will need to know your name and contact details so they can contact you about your research appointments, or to send you questionnaires. Researchers must always make sure that as few people as possible can see this sort of information that can show who you are.
In lots of research, most of the research team will not need to know your name. In these cases, someone will remove your name from the research data and replace it with a code number. This is called coded data, or the technical term is pseudonymised data. For example, your blood test might be labelled with your code number instead of your name. It can be matched up with the rest of the data relating to you by the code number.
In other research, only the doctor copying the data from your health records will know your name. They will replace your name with a code number. They will also make sure that any other information that could show who you are is removed. For example, instead of using your date of birth they will give the research team your age. When there is no information that could show who you are, this is called anonymous data.
Sometimes your own doctor or care team will be involved in doing a research study. Often, they will be part of a bigger research team. This may involve other hospitals, or universities or companies developing new treatments. Sometimes parts of the research team will be in other countries. You can ask about where your data will go. You can also check whether the data they get will include information that could show who you are. Research teams in other countries must stick to the rules that the UK uses.
All the computers storing patient data must meet special security arrangements.
If you want to find out more about how companies develop and sell new medicines, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has information on its website.
Researchers must make sure they write the reports about the study in a way that no-one can work out that you took part in the study.
Once they have finished the study, the research team will keep the research data for several years (a legal requirement for clinical trials), in case the researchers or government regulators need to check it. You can ask about who will keep it, whether it includes your name, and how long they will keep it.
Usually your hospital or GP where you are taking part in the study will keep a copy of the research data along with your name. The organisation running the research will usually only keep a coded copy of your research data, without your name included. This is kept so the results can be checked.
If you agree to take part in a research study, you may get the choice to give your research data from this study for future research. Sometimes this future research may use research data that has had your name and NHS number removed (this would make the data anonymous so other future researchers won’t be able to contact you). Or it may use research data that could show who you are (in which case future researchers maybe able to contact you). You will be told what options there are. You will get details if your research data will be joined up with other information about you or your health, such as from your GP or social services.
On rare occasions NHS organisations may provide researchers with confidential patient information from your health records when we are not able to seek your agreement to take part in the study, for example because the number of patients involved is too large or the NHS organisation no longer has your contact details. Researchers must have special approval before they can do this.
Any information that could show who you are will be held safely with strict limits on who can access it.
Researchers may not be able to specify all the possible future uses of the information they keep. It could include providing the information to other researchers from NHS organisations, universities or companies developing new treatments or care. Wherever this happens it will be done under strict legal agreements. The information about you will be depersonalised (either pseudonymised or anonymised) wherever possible so that you cannot be identified. Where there is a risk that you can be identified your data will only be used in research that has been independently reviewed by an ethics committee.
Data Protection Legislation
The Trust must manage your personal information in line with the:
We must be clear about the legal basis for processing your information and we record this.
As a public authority the Trust has been authorised by the government to carry out research. The legal basis for processing personal identifiable data under GDPR is Article 6 (1) (e) ‘… exercise of official authority…’ and for special category data Article 9 (2) (j) ‘… research purposes…’
Researchers must show that their research takes account of the views of patients and ordinary members of the public. They must also show how they protect the privacy of the people who take part. An NHS research ethics committee checks this before the research starts.
What are your information rights?
You have a number of rights under the Data Protection Legislation:
You will have a choice about taking part in a clinical trial testing a treatment. If you choose not to take part, that is fine.
In most cases you will also have a choice about your patient data being used for other types of research. There are two cases where this might not happen:
If you are asked about taking part in research, usually someone in the care team looking after you will contact you. People in your care team may look at your health records to check whether you are suitable to take part in a research study, before asking you whether you are interested or sending you a letter on behalf of the researcher.
In some hospitals and GP practices, you may have the opportunity to sign up to a register to hear about suitable research studies that you could take part in. In this case the hospital or researchers would keep your contact details and some of your health information, so they can invite you to take part in future clinical trials or other studies. Your data will not be used to sell you anything and only be used for health and care research. If you agree to this, then research nurses, researchers or administrative staff authorised by the Trust may look at your health records to see if you are suitable for any research studies.
It’s important for you to be aware that if you are taking part in research, or information about you is used for research, your rights to access, change or move information about you are limited. This is because researchers need to manage your information in specific ways in order for the research to be reliable and accurate. If you withdraw from a study, the sponsor will keep the information about you that it has already obtained. They may also keep information from research indefinitely.
If you would like to find out more about why and how patient data is used in research, please visit the Understanding Patient Data website.
If you want to complain about how researchers have handled your information, you should contact the research team. If you are not happy after that, you can contact the Trust’s Data Protection Officer and they will investigate the matter. If you are not satisfied with their response or believe they are processing your personal data in a way that is not lawful you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Please address any questions or concerns to the Trusts Data Protection Officer:-
University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
Information Governance Team
1st Floor Bircham House
William Prance Road
Tel: 01752 437284
If you remain dissatisfied then you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: -