Using NHS records to save lives: Sowerby eHealth Symposium 2015


George Freeman

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP on empowering patients to become 21st century healthcare citizens.

Experts gathered to discuss the benefits and the barriers to the sharing of NHS patient data.

Over 100 delegates gathered at the Royal Geographical Society last Thursday for the Centre for Health Policy’s Sowerby eHealth Symposium. 

Founded in 2013 with support from the Peter Sowerby Foundation, the Sowerby eHealth Forum is a group of experts established by Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) working on a programme of research and development to join up electronic health records, healthcare data, and health informatics policy.  

The Symposium follows on from the 2014 Sowerby eHealth Conference, which took place in June 2014 to launch the Sowerby Commission Report.

Speakers at the 2015 event included the Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman MP.  He urged the healthcare sector to “embrace innovation so that we can deliver more health for every pound we spend and empower passive patients to become 21st century healthcare citizens”.  

Watch the video of his speech below. 

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Charles Gutteridge, Chief Clinical Information Officer at Barts NHS Trust presented examples of data driven innovations in the East London healthcare sector and offered practical steps we can take as carers and patients to achieve a “people’s data movement across the UK”. 

His presentation can be watched in full below and you can download his slides here

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Paul Aylin, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial, worked on the Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry and the Shipman Inquiry. His presentation discussed how applying knowledge gained from both of these, he and colleagues were able to devise a mortality alert system to detect sudden rises in the death rate for every NHS hospital in England. 

Watch Paul's presentation below and download his slides here.  

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Other speakers included Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial Erik Mayer, who updated us on the progress of the Sowerby project and Julie Oxley, Head of IM&T at Leeds City Council who used Leeds’ integrated digital care records as an example of how digital care data could be used across the whole country.   

Watch their talks below.  Erik's slides can be downloaded here and Julie's here.

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Nick Timmins, Senior Fellow at the Kings Fund & Institute for Government concluded the event by moderating a panel discussion with Dave Roberts, Head of Primary Care at the Health and Social Care Information Centre, Rupert Dunbar-Rees, CEO of Outcomes Based Healthcare and Phil Booth, Coordinator of medConfidential.  It was clear from the discussion that whilst there are many benefits to the sharing of patient data, there are confidentiality and consent challenges which need to be managed.

Watch the full debate below. 

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Director of IGHI and Chair of the meeting Professor the Lord Ara Darzi said “We must convince the public that researchers need access to medical records.  Confidentiality is, of course, a vital principle of the doctor-patient relationship—but it can also cause significant harm. No NHS policy explicitly forbids the sharing of records, but staff are reluctant because the confidentiality of those records is protected by law, under the Data Protection Act.

Lord Darzi and George FreemanObtaining consent from the public for sharing its data for research remains our greatest challenge. Our best hope may be to show what can be achieved when researchers are allowed access to data.  We hope the Sowerby Symposium provided a platform on which to discuss and debate these key issues which in turn can save lives and create a more cohesive and joined up NHS”. 

Watch Lord Darzi's opening speech below

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Presentations and photos

Check out the photos from the event here on Flickr.

Read the Powerpoint presentations from speakers: 


Jo Seed

Jo Seed
Institute of Global Health Innovation

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