Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Research regulation

Limits of anonymisation in NHS data systems

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 22 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d973
  1. Ian Brown, senior research fellow1,
  2. Lindsey Brown, research associate2,
  3. Douwe Korff, professor of international law3
  1. 1Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3JS, UK
  2. 2School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PS, UK
  3. 3Faculty of Law, Governance, and International Relations, London Metropolitan University, London E1 7NT, UK
  1. ian.brown{at}

Smyth discusses the recent report from the Academy of Medical Sciences on research regulation.1 2 The expert group’s reliance on anonymity to protect participants in research was based on assumptions about key NHS patient data systems that may no longer be justified in an era of ubiquitous data generation and sharing. The report also pays insufficient attention to patient autonomy. Patients are not currently being adequately informed about possible secondary uses of their medical …

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