UK Health Data Alliance publishes principles for forming Trusted Research Environments

The UK Health Data Alliance has published its principles and best practices for forming Trusted Research Environments (TRE), setting out an approach for data access for health research.

The paper, entitled: ‘Building Trusted Research Environments – Principles and Best Practices; Towards TRE ecosystems’ outlines five principles to follow, each with itemised best practices.

It’s hoped to act as a guide for data custodians and other organisations involved in data sharing and information governance within and beyond the health sectors. The principles and best practices have been defined as a measure to help ‘ensure public trust is maintained’ and to ‘improve efficiency and level of analytics for research’.

A framework of “Five Safes” has been introduced which covers; people, projects, settings, data and outputs – each with details for the data custodian, TRE provider and researchers. The paper also sets out principles for the federation of Trusted Research Environments – how they can be linked, to enhance the scale of data linkage and research.

David Seymour, Alliance Executive Director, Health Data Research UK, said: “Trusted Research Environments are an important tool in how we advance scientific discovery through ethically robust research. This paper represents our commitment to their successful development, so that, as a sector, we can align on standards that protect privacy and improve transparency in the use of patient data for research.”

Simon Madden, Director of Data Policy & Covid Pass Policy, NHSX, added: “The UK has some of the richest health data in the world. Combined with our research expertise in the NHS, academia and life sciences industries, we have the opportunity to use this data at scale for patient benefit. This paper will help us ensure this is done in a secure, trustworthy way.”

In June 2022, HTN reported on the ‘Trusted Research and Evaluation Environment strategy’ published by North East and North Cumbria ICS. The ICS said the strategy is to provide the capability and data platform to ‘support evidence based transformation’, across the region.

The ICS noted its four strategic outcomes in the paper: to develop public and partner trust and assurance on use of data through a transparent, safe and effective capability; cultivate health, care and academic expertise through collaboration and a ‘learning health system’, to improve real-world, regional challenges; deliver projects that are focussed on improving population health and wellbeing, using a safe and secure data analytics capability; and provide a nationally assured, safe, scalable and sustainable capability to support the regions digital development and economic growth.