£13.5 million investment into sub-national secure data environment

£13.5 million has been announced in funding for the development of an interoperable network of NHS-owned sub-national secure data environments (SDEs) in a blog by Dr Claire Bloomfield, Deputy Director of Data for Research and Development at NHS Transformation Directorate’s Centre for Improving Data Collaboration.

The funding will help support a country-wide network of data environments to allow approved users to access and analyse data without the data leaving the environment. It has been awarded to teams representing the East of England; East Midlands; Great Western; Kent and Medway and Sussex; London; North East and North Cumbria; North West; Thames Valley and Surrey; Wessex; West Midlands; and Yorkshire and Humber.

The sub-national SDEs are to be NHS-led and will bring integrated care boards together with local universities and industry partners in order to build on existing collaborations and successful research partnerships. They will offer near real-time access to linked data of different types, including imaging, pathology and genomics, and will operate at significant scale, covering around 5 million citizens each, whilst also preserving connectivity to local communities and clinical teams.

The SDEs will be designed to operate smoothly with the NHS Digital SDE, “unified by a community of practice that will inform SDE policy and build on prior investments including – where lawful – the use of information from shared care record solutions.”

Dr Bloomfield states that the development of the network has and will continue to be “shaped by meaningful conversations with patients and the public”. She highlights the London Health Data Strategy Programme, which shares the expectations of the public for regional availability of data for research along with expectations around privacy and transparency.” Dr Bloomfield adds: “This funding represents a significant step forward for the programme as we move from concept to creation, delivering on our strategic ambitions to power research with data to save lives.”

The funding follows foundational investment in 2021/22 and a competitive process over the summer, with further investment planned for 2023/24 and 2024/25.