New initiative supports safe and secure remote access to Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care data for researchers
16 March 2021
Data and Connectivity, led by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) in partnership with ONS, has launched a new data access initiative following an investment partnership with Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and the Department of Health (Northern Ireland).
This collaboration will enable remote access to health data research projects approved by the Honest Broker Service (HBS, a function of Health and Social Care Northern Ireland (HSCNI)) via a safe and secure online platform without identifiable data leaving the HBS-governed environment. Until now researchers have only been able to access data physically at the HBS site, the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has highlighted limitations with this approach.
Following this investment, the UK Secure eResearch Platform (UK SeRP), developed by a team at Swansea University Medical School, will provide a new mechanism to facilitate Northern Ireland health related research whilst providing a safe, secure and governed environment to ensure that patient data is safeguarded with confidence. Adaptation of this platform by Northern Ireland will ensure access to HBS-approved projects is strictly controlled by the HBS as data custodians. Using SeRP’s advanced technological platform and extensive suite of analytical tools, approved researchers will be able to access and analyse, on a project-by-project basis, the rich data held by HBS to generate insights into health and social care in Northern Ireland (as well as enhancing Northern Ireland’s representation in UK-wide studies). This research will equip policymakers and service providers with evidence to design interventions to benefit society and the people whose lives make up the datasets.
Following the successful completion of the pilot project a period of consultation with data controllers across HSCNI has taken place and the platform is soon to be introduced for HBS projects in Northern Ireland. It is expected that the first Northern Ireland projects will be facilitated via the SeRP platform in March 2021, with the service being fully established for new and existing projects by July 2021.
Key to the establishment of this new service was the awarded funding from Data and Connectivity National Core Study in October 2020 . As well, the technical support from Swansea University and the HSC Honest Broker Service, as well as the close collaboration between academia, the Department of Health, BSO, the Public Health Agency and HSC Trusts who are jointly invested in delivering innovative technology to Northern Ireland, paving the way for cutting-edge data-focused research to benefit our society.
Explore the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway
About the Data and Connectivity
Data and Connectivity connects UK health data to support and accelerate research on COVID-19. The programme supports the five National Core Studies established by the government to answer key questions on COVID, by enabling streamlined data access and analysis. The Health Data Research Innovation Gateway provides a common entry point to discover and request access to UK health datasets.
Contact the Honest Broker Service at HonestBrokerService@hscni.net.
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