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11th May 2023

Health and Care Research Wales in joint £70 million funding partnership to transform potential of UK health data

Health and Care Research Wales is one of nine funding partners from across the UK to provide a total of more than £70 million in grant funding to Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), to support their work to accelerate trustworthy access to health data and improve treatments, deliver better healthcare and save lives.

The UK is in a unique position to realise the potential of health data, thanks to the NHS and its cradle-to-grave records for a population of over 65 million people. However, safe and secure access to this data for researchers is often a lengthy, fragmented process, meaning the potential for improving healthcare is not being realised in full.

HDR UK is the national institute for health data science. It works with the NHS and partners in universities, charities, industry and regulators in bringing the UK’s health data together to make discoveries that improve people’s lives.

It will help to tackle some of the biggest global health crises, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and could speed up and reshape approaches to research.

Professor Kieran Walshe, Director of Health and Care Research Wales said:

We are excited to continue to be part of the funding partnership for Health Data Research UK. Data driven research is a critical part of the research infrastructure in Wales and it is fantastic to be part of this important work.”

The nine funding partners are the Medical Research Council (MRC), the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the British Heart FoundationCancer Research UK, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health DirectoratesHealth and Care Research Wales, and Health & Social Care R&D in Northern Ireland.

HDR UK director, Professor Andrew Morris, said: “The transformative potential of health data research is a long way from being realised in full. Only a small proportion of NHS, biomedical and health-relevant data is accessible for research. Our work is far from done if we are to benefit patients and improve lives – this significant funding award is a step change in ensuring we achieve this mission.”

The next five years of funding will see HDR UK follow a plan to increase the speed, scale and quality of health data science and so enable new discoveries.

  • UK-wide, collaborative research programmes will drive forward the use of large datasets in different areas: from cancer and heart disease to respiratory disease, from the use of medicines to looking at social and environmental impacts on health.
  • The current fragmentation and lack of standardisation in the data will be tackled by working with many different organisations, building capabilities and supporting real team science.
  • Patients and the public will continue to be involved throughout the Institute’s work – ensuring that access to data for research is enabled by trustworthy, safe and secure systems and generates public benefit.

This work builds on the successes of the first five years of the institute, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when the rapid linking and analysis of health data in the four devolved nations informed government responses at many stages, including the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank in Wales, which holds very complete anonymised data.

For more details of this funding partnership, please visit HDR UK website.