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Joan Ryan MP raises concerns over deal to share medical records of Enfield patients

Joan Ryan MP has called on the Chief Executive of the Royal Free London to provide assurances to Enfield patients about the security of their private medical records.

A number of Enfield residents have been in touch with me to raise their concerns about their medical records being shared with an organisation outside of the NHS - DeepMind - Google’s artificial intelligence company, without any knowledge of what DeepMind will be doing with their information, and without their expressed consent being given.

Earlier this month, DeepMind and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust entered into a new five year partnership to develop a mobile app called Streams. The app intends to alert clinicians more quickly to potential medical emergencies and to save the time spent by doctors and nurses on paperwork.  The deal is an extension of an existing agreement between the Trust and DeepMind to help monitor abnormalities in patient’s blood tests, and to improve detection of acute kidney injury (AKI).

However, privacy campaigners are concerned that details on more than 1.6 million patients a year, who use Barnet, Chase Farm and Royal Free Hampstead’s hospitals, will be shared with DeepMind.

I have written to the Chief Executive of the Royal Free London, David Sloman, and have asked the Trust to clarify exactly “what information will be shared with DeepMind, and what information DeepMind will have access to”.

I have also written to the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, who is investigating the agreement, and have asked her “to establish whether there is any risk that the agreement breaches guidelines on patient confidentiality, consent and fair processing [of data]”.  

I welcome innovations which seek to improve patients’ health, free up doctors’ and nurses’ time and save NHS resources. However, we must ensure that advances in medical care do not come at the cost of undermining patient confidentiality.

Further Reading:

  1. Joan Ryan MP’s letter to the Chief Executive of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, David Sloman can be found here.
  2. Joan Ryan MP's letter to the UK Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham can be found here.
  3. Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust is an NHS Foundation Trust encompassing the Royal Free Hospital, Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital.
  4. DeepMind is a British artificial intelligence company. Founded in 2010, it is a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
  5. More information about the agreement is available from the Royal Free website: https://www.royalfree.nhs.uk/news-media/news/nhs-and-technology-leaders-agree-groundbreaking-partnership-to-improve-safety-and-save-lives/
  6. Joan Ryan previously wrote to David Sloman, Chief Executive of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, in May 2016 to raise concerns regarding consent and confidentiality issues relating to the original data sharing agreement.
  7. In September 2015, the Royal Free and DeepMind signed a data sharing agreement to develop the Streams clinical app, which aims to monitor patients to detect signs of acute kidney injury (AKI).
  8. In November 2016, a five-year partnership was announced, extending the existing agreement, and expanding the Streams clinical app, to support doctors in clinical task management, and to assist in the prevention of life-threatening conditions such as sepsis, liver dysfunction and general organ failure.
  9. The Information Commissioners Office is the UK's independent body set up to uphold information rights. 








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