Harnessing the power of NHS patient data - Barts Charity

Harnessing the power of NHS patient data

Our £6.7m in funding will allow Barts Life Sciences to use anonymous patient data to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

  • Date: December 18, 2020

Using data to research diseases

Barts Life Sciences is a partnership between our partners Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of LondonWith our funding of £6.7m, researchers at Barts Life Sciences will aim to make better use of patient information. This is a currently untapped and underused source of data. It will be used for the benefit of patients and the wider population.

With our support, they will research new ways to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseasesThis could include Covid-19, cancer, heart disease and diabetes, all of which affect our community.

Delivering precision medicine

The data will be depersonalised and only shared with key, relevant researchers for analysisThe researchers will look for patterns and clues in the data which could teach them more about these diseases. It is hoped that this will give them better insight into how to better prevent, diagnose and treat them. The long-term aim is to deliver ‘precision medicine’, which provides each patient with a tailored planThe plan will indicate how to reduce their chances of developing diseases and deliver targeted treatments.

Recent studies by Queen Mary researchers have shown the benefits of research using patient dataFor example, by analysing Covid-19 data in East London, they discovered why the area has seen some of the highest cases and deaths in the UKThey also confirmed that ethnic minorities have twice the risk of developing Covid-19 compared with those from white backgroundsThey are part of a national effort to develop and deliver a new tool to identify patients at higher risk of Covid-19East London will be one of the first areas in the country to use this tool, which will help GPs find and protect high-risk patients.
"Using this patient data, we can accelerate the discovery of pioneering an effective personalised medicine. We can then translate healthcare innovations into tangible benefits for those in East London."
Panos Deloukas, Programme Lead and Dean for Life Sciences at Queen Mary University of London

Other ways our funds are being used

Our funding also supports a dedicated information governance and research management team. This is to ensure that patient confidentiality is maintained at all times. They will oversee the use of patient data, making sure it is accessed responsiblylegally and safely at all times.

The funding will also be used to recruit three new professors to Queen Mary University of London and the Barts Life Sciences partnershipThese individuals will be world experts in computer health sciences and lead the curation and analysis of patient data
“This is an incredibly important area of research. We are extremely proud to make this commitment not only to the people of East London, but to patients worldwide. We have seen first-hand through our previous work with the Trust and the University the impact data-led solutions can have for patients across a broad range of conditions, helping to find treatments where none previously existed. We are delighted to be supporting Barts Life Sciences in its goal to transform patient outcomes through the better understanding and analysis of data and look forward to bringing together some of the best minds to do so.”
Fiona Miller Smith, CEO of Barts Charity

A huge wealth of data

Claude Chelala, Professor of Bioinformatics at Queen Mary University of London, said:

“There is a huge wealth of patient data which is not currently being used as well as it could be for the NHS or for patients. This funding hopes to change that. We are bringing together GPs, surgeons, data and computer scientists and – at the heart of it all – patients, without whom work like this would not be possible. Working together, we will unlock the potential of this patient data and create meaningful information which can be used to transform the way, and speed at which, we find new treatments and prevent future health problems. This will ensure patients have a better chance of early diagnosis and are offered more effective treatment options, better suited to them and their disease.” 

Tangible benefits for those in East London

Panos Deloukas, Programme Lead and Dean for Life Sciences at Queen Mary University of London said:

“This new funding provides us with a unique opportunity to make full use of the rich and diverse Barts Health patient data, in the collaborative, interdisciplinary environment of Barts Life Sciences. By appropriately and responsibly using this patient data, we can accelerate the discovery of pioneering and effective personalised medicine and translate healthcare innovations into tangible benefits for those in East London. Ultimately, we want to develop new personalised ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating a range of diseases, including inflammatory disorders, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Reverend Alan Green, Chair of Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum, said:

“We know that the East London population are disproportionally affected by a variety of diseases, including diabetes and Coivd-19. Research like this, which uses information from the local population to help find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat these and other diseases in a more informed and targeted way is fantastic. It will truly benefit a diverse population that has some of the highest rates of illness in London and the UK.”


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