NHS England - Transformation Directorate

How patient data is used in the NCCID

Our aim is to provide information about how patient data is used and safeguarded in the National COVID-19 Chest Imaging Database (NCCID).

The NHS AI Lab set up the NCCID to support COVID-19 research and help with the development of safe and effective AI technology - enabling better care for patients hospitalised with a severe infection. The use of patient data was key to this effort. We would like to thank the NHS hospitals that are contributing chest images from patients across the country, which were collected as part of their care and support.

A summary

  • Everyone involved in the NCCID complies with strict laws around data.
  • Access to pseudonymised data is managed by an NHS AI Lab committee.
  • Pseudonymised data can only be accessed for COVID research.
  • Access is time limited to a year.

The NCCID is part of the NHS AI Lab Imaging programme.

What data does the NCCID use?

The NCCID holds digital images of the chest (for example X-ray, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)) taken during routine hospital investigations and associated clinical data (for example age, sex, hospital number). This data is pseudonymised to avoid directly identifying the person in the image. See below for an explanation of pseudonymisation.

How is NCCID data stored and protected?

The chest image and clinical data are transferred under strict data security guidelines from the secure facilities in hospitals around the UK to a centralised cloud-based warehouse, managed and maintained by NHSX.

The data is pseudonymised before being uploaded to the NHSX dedicated cloud solution.

Pseudonymisation is a technique that separates data from direct identifiers (for example name, surname, NHS number) and replaces them with a pseudonym (for example, a reference number), so that identifying an individual from that data is not possible without additional information.

In the case of the NCCID, the NHS number (UK) or Community Health Number (Scotland) is encrypted (converted into code to prevent unauthorised access) and access is maintained by authorised NHS staff.

More information on pseudonymisation and other anonymisation techniques is available on the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) website.

Who has access to NCCID data?

Data in the NCCID is only made available to individuals (for examle academics and innovators) for COVID-19 specific research purposes. Access is carefully authorised, monitored and audited by the NHS AI Lab and committee of scientific advisors, technology officers and lay members.

Anyone accessing the data must sign a Data Access Agreement and a Data Access Framework Contract.

Get further details from our NCCID privacy notice.

How long is NCCID data used?

Access to the NCCID is granted for one year. It is possible to apply for renewal.

For more information about NCCID data control and your data rights, visit our NCCID privacy notice.

How is patient data making a difference?

The NCCID was created to support a better understanding of the COVID-19 virus and develop technology that will enable the best care for patients hospitalised with a severe infection. It gives researchers a large, centralised source of valuable information. This means they can perform better and more robust research.

The research enabled by the NCCID will provide information and tools that:

  • help doctors determine the severity of a patient’s coronavirus infection
  • support diagnosis of COVID-19 and an understanding of the expected development of the disease
  • help hospital staff to make decisions about patient triage and care

Data collected within the health and care system is hugely valuable to provide direct patient care, to help the planning of services in a local area, for research and for the development of innovations. To read more about the value of patient data, view information about our National Data Strategy.

“Collecting data locally allows you to make observations; however, collating volumes of data like the NCCID allows greater inferences to be made, as the sample size is substantial.”

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.