The Clinical Practice Research Datalink will improve access to the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) and allow researchers to link GPRD data to other datasets.
The MHRA said the scheme would allow ‘researchers to draw on the power of large linked anonymised data sets on an unprecedented scale’.
Announcing the launch of the new service, MHRA chief executive Professor Sir Kent Woods said patient data in shared through the Clinical Practice Research Datalink would be anonymised.
‘All the data from patients will be anonymised and no personal details will be shared with health researchers,’ he said.
In 2009, the MHRA found that the confidentiality of patients’ data stored in the GPRD could be compromised by researchers who were gaining unauthorised access to the database. In response to the concerns, the agency pledged to update its guidance and tighten procedures.
Health minister Lord Howe said the Clinical Practice Research Datalink was an ‘exciting and unique resource which will be of huge value to researchers as they develop new treatments to the benefit of patients right across the NHS’.
He added: ‘It will help cement our reputation as world leaders in life sciences research.’
The launch of the Clinical Practice Research Datalink follows commitments set out in the UK government’s ‘Plan for growth’, launched in March 2011 and updated as part of the 2012 Budget.
The 'Plan for growth' included a pledge to create unique opportunities for research in the UK by building a ‘consensus on using e-health record data to create a unique position for the UK in health research’.
The government said this would enable more powerful uses of anonymised data sets aggregated prescription data linked down to GP-practice level, which it has since made available.