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End of MRC GPRD Access Scheme

For the past few years, the MRC has funded access to GPRD data for UK researchers. This has been very helpful in increasing expertise in the use of GPRD amongst UK researchers and boosting the number of academic papers that use the database. This scheme has now ended and the effects this might have on research were discussed in a recent BMJ news article. The UK has one of the highest uses of electronic patient records in primary care, and these records have been a great resource for biomedical researchers.

Before the licence scheme was implemented the main users of the database were based in the United States, Spain, and Switzerland but that after it was set up this was no longer the case. Although the MRC will continue to fund access to the data via its research grants schemes, the process for applying for access to the database will be much lengthier and because applying for the council’s grants is highly competitive it is likely that most grant applications will be unsuccessful. Hence, it is very likely that we will see a reduction in UK based research using the GPRD once current projects using data obtained under the old scheme end. In other areas of the NHS and public health, there are datasets that can be obtained at relatively low cost (or sometimes no cost). These include hospital episode statistics, mortality statistics, and cancer registrations.

We need a similar easy and cheap access to anonymised primary care records for research. The UK has a strong primary healthcare delivery system and a very high use of electronic patient records in this setting. We should therefore be leading the world in the secondary uses of data obtained from primary care.

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