As the furore over the handling of grows in the UK, Belgium's deputy prime minister says the country is happy to open its data vaults up to medical science.

Alexander De Croo says he is happy to make available anonymised medical data stored on 2.5% of the Belgian population, over 300,000 people, in order to promote “scientific progress”. Speaking to eyeforpharma, he said "this has the potential to change a lot of things for the healthcare landscape. There’s a lot of data on clinical trials and that’s a positive thing, but it’s much better to get real data on real outcomes from real environments. This is going to move healthcare research in a very dramatic way”.

Mr De Croo argues that "a strong partnership will help us to strengthen the links between therapies, institutions and certain drugs – it opens a whole new spectrum of research. It’s quite clear, the more access to real life data the better”. In Belgium, he said that "everything is in place. We have been finalising the best practice for making good contractual agreements without tying industries’ hands and feet, and are looking forward to building upon these experiences".

Mark Wilkinson, head of NHS Barnsley Clinical Commission Group, who formerly worked at AstraZeneca, welcomed Mr De Croo's comments, saying that "this is a very positive step and I hope it will lead to greater openness and sharing of data – with appropriate safeguards – to help the pharmaceutical industry to develop effective new medicines".

Mr De Croo will speak about the Belgian programme at the Real World Data Europe conference April 28-29.