A revolution in medical research in Britain is to give academics and the life sciences industry unparalleled access to the cradle-to-grave health records of about 52 million people in England.
Studies of NHS records first revealed the dangers of thalidomide; established an association between power lines and childhood leukaemia; showed autism had nothing to do with the MMR vaccine; and more recently highlighted England’s poor cancer survival rates, a problem that lay mostly in late diagnosis. The result was a government campaign to raise awareness of early symptoms, such as a cough that lasts more than three weeks, with the aim of saving 5,000 more lives by 2015.
Now ministers have overseen the creation of new systems to encourage a surge in studies that draw on public health records. From September GP practices will be encouraged to take part in the scheme, through the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).
An uneasy question hung in the air when Britain banned smoking in enclosed public places. There was room for unintended consequences. Deprived of their usual haunts, smokers might light up more at home.
View the original article here: Scientists to hunt for lifesaving information buried in cradle-to-grave data collected by doctors and hospitals