Our Future Health opens consultation on trusted research environment accreditation process  

News – 30 June 2022
Our Future Health has opened a consultation on our trusted research environment accreditation process.

The draft accreditation process has been developed following discussions and input from a range of experts and stakeholders. We are making the draft documents available for comment, following our recent announcement that we will provide secure access to health data for research via trusted research environments.   

Making data available within trusted research environments

We are currently setting up our computing infrastructure, including the Our Future Health trusted research environment, which will be the default route for most researchers accessing our data. We are working closely with researchers to ensure it is useful for the widest possible range of users, and meets the diverse needs of the community. Our TRE aims to both speed up research, and to maximise the value and potential impact of discoveries on prevention, early detection and treatment of major diseases. There could also be occasions where the Our Future Health TRE may not be able to meet certain specific research requirements. For example, where organisations have developed complex software or analytical tools that would be hard, or even impossible, to recreate in our research environment.  

So, in limited scenarios, and where they can meet the same strict standards as the Our Future Health TRE, we will allow other trusted research environments to host the consented, de-identified Our Future Health data to run approved research projects.  

Our accreditation process 

To ensure that any trusted research environment hosting Our Future Health data meets the necessary standards of data governance and cyber security, as well as operational, privacy and technical requirements to receive Our Future Health data, we are developing a robust accreditation process. This is based on well-established standards and frameworks, such as the Office for National Statistics Five Safes framework, the UK GDPR, and international cyber security standard ISO 27001. A trusted research environment must successfully complete this process and achieve accreditation before they can receive Our Future Health data. 

How we are collaborating with NHS England  

As announced in the recent Data Strategy for Health and Social Care, NHS England is committed to adopting Secure Data Environments as the default route to access data moving forwards. Part of this work will include the development by NHS England of an accreditation regime to ensure Secure Data Environments holding NHS data meet the highest possible standards.  

The processes will naturally differ between how the NHS accredits Secure Data Environments to store and provide access to its data, as opposed to how Our Future Health accredits TREs. But we will work together to share best practice and converge where appropriate. 

In parallel, we are developing both the access process through which researchers will apply to our Access Board for approval of their research projects, and the researcher registration process. We will publish more information on these during Summer 2022. 

Opportunity for consultation  

The consultation is now closed.