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Survey shows public concerns over NHS data in the cloud


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Most people want to know more about how their healthcare data is stored by the NHS, according a study published by a charity supporting the development of digital understanding.

The Corsham Institute (Ci) has said the finding comes from an online survey of 2,000 adults in early June conducted by research firm ComRes and published in its report The Adoption of Public Cloud Services in the NHS.

It found that 88% of the respondents said it was important to know where and how their patient data is stored and 80% wanted to know if it was hosted by companies headquartered outside the UK.

They were also more comfortable with the idea of storing information on clouds managed by British companies, although only a minority of 49% registered outright support. By comparison, only 23% said they would be comfortable if the clouds were managed by global companies.

There was more confidence in the prospect of the NHS storing data, with 70% saying they thought it does so securely against 25% saying they were not confident.

In addition, half of the respondents believed the NHS has a national computer server for storing patient data while only 28% thought it was stored in a cloud service.

Benefits and barriers

The findings have prompted Ci to emphasise the benefits of the NHS using public cloud services, such as reducing costs, providing greater security and providing opportunities for innovation in care. But it acknowledged the need to address some challenges and said there has to be better engagement with the public to make them aware of the advantages of cloud.

Its chief operating officer, Louisa Simmons, said: “Cloud computing has the potential to enhance collaboration, increase efficiency and improve security across the NHS. However, progress in migrating workloads to the cloud varies dramatically between different trusts and other bodies within the NHS.

“Many organisations are still reliant on the kind of fragmented and dated infrastructure that was impacted by the Wannacry attack and are also reliant on outdated and inefficient technologies such as fax machines – which are surprisingly still in widespread use across the NHS.”

Nicky Stewart, commercial director at cloud service provider UKCloud Health and one of the expert witnesses contributing to the report, said: “Capturing the undoubted advantages of cloud does not mean that NHS data needs to ever move outside of the UK or be held on clouds managed by global companies.”

She pointed out that the NHS N3 network and Health and Social Care Network exist within Crown Campus, a hosting environment developed specifically for public sector framework service providers, and said it can minimise the risk of security incidents and eliminate the risk of a public backlash over moving data outside the UK.

Image by Wing-Chi Poon, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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