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Majority of UK Public Want NHS Data to Be Stored in the UK

LONDON, United Kingdom — 5th July, 2023

• Over half of UK public trust the NHS to store and analyse their patient data safely, but where it’s stored is a pressing concern, VMware study reveals
• 56% of UK public do not trust the NHS to use AI to analyse their patient data even if it would help the NHS deliver patient results faster

The majority (87%) of UK consumers believe it is important their NHS patient data is stored in the United Kingdom, according to research unveiled today by VMware.

The study of more than 2,000 UK citizens reveals that people still have cybersecurity concerns when it comes to where their personal and sensitive data is stored. Of those who stated it is important for their data to be stored in the UK, more than a third (39%) think that their data stored within the country’s national borders would ensure it complies with UK data privacy regulations. A fifth (22%) do not trust other countries to safeguard their data as well as the UK, and 21% think it will be less susceptible to foreign cyber threats or access to foreign entities.

Despite this, the research reveals a good level of trust in the NHS when it comes to storing and analysing patient data. For instance, 59% of respondents expressed confidence in the NHS's ability to safeguard their sensitive information. But when asked about where their data is stored, most UK public had doubts on their data residing outside of their national boundaries.

Businesses share the same attitude. 42% of business leaders are very or extremely concerned about their critical data being managed by U.S. cloud providers , and 62% have expressed their current clouds are not meeting their data sovereignty requirements, according to the latest IDC research.

Many NHS and social care providers today use non-national public clouds. This means that patient data is currently hosted in a provider currently deemed adequate by the UK, however, if this is a non-national provider, the data could be subject to external jurisdictional control.

“This consumer opinion matters as it echoes business sentiment. These findings demonstrate the increasing importance of data integrity and sovereignty in helping the NHS, among other highly regulated industries, realise and unlock the true value of their sensitive and critical data, “ said Guy Bartram, Cloud Evangelist EMEA, VMware. “By embracing cloud sovereignty, the NHS can build public trust and assertively maintain governance, fortify data protection and help unlock the true value of critical and sensitive patient data in delivering patient services.”

"While there are vast rewards to be harvested through applying AI to healthcare data, we have to remember that each datapoint relates to a patient, and every patient should trust that their privacy is maintained,” said Darren Adcock, Senior Product Manager, Redcentric. “By harnessing the power of AI and advanced technologies within a secure and sovereign cloud framework, the NHS ensures that groundbreaking advancements in healthcare never compromise patient privacy and trust. Sovereign clouds serve as a pivotal enabler, allowing the NHS to drive progress responsibly, ethically, and with the utmost dedication to patient well-being.”

Sovereignty extends beyond where data is stored, but also how it is used by platforms such as artificial intelligence (AI), which analyses the data to feed algorithms. The general public surveyed hold diverse opinions regarding AI in healthcare, with 45% open to its use for improved services and 44% happy with the NHS using the technology to process their patient data if it helped the NHS to process diagnostic tests faster. However, concerns exist, with 25% saying they are against the NHS using AI to process their patient data.

“Ongoing digital transformation and the increased use of emerging technologies such as AI, have spurred both excitement for true innovation to revolutionise our NHS, but also a new urgency for how this boom in data will be securely managed and stored,” said Dr Will Venters, Associate Professor of Information Systems, London School of Economics. “With the increased use of multiple clouds to create, store and distribute apps – apps which the NHS needs relies on from front-line clinicians through to optimising operations - it is essential to patient trust that the NHS protects sensitive patient data, and this can be achieved by protecting it with sovereign clouds. AI has created new data opportunities so it is critical the NHS can make better use of its data, to build a resilient and patient-centric healthcare system that the UK needs.”

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