Think tank Reform has warned that the National Health Service risks losing out on huge potential revenue in the future if it does not put in place a strategy to capitalise on the increasing value of its medical data.

NHS data is a valuable resource, and as new technology develops and collaboration with private technology companies increases, the Department of Health and Social Care must make sure its full potential is harnessed for the public benefit.

The Reform report highlights the urgent need for the NHS and the private sector to work in partnership, in the best interest of patients, and calls for the creation of an independent body of legal and business experts to oversee deals and advise NHS services, including hospitals and GP practices, to ensure best outcomes.

The valuable data about patients, staff schedules and medical procedures is collected everyday within the NHS, which generates huge benefits as it is directly used to inform the decisions doctors and nurses make about the care a person should receive. The data can also be used by companies in the life sciences industry to develop products and services that improve the quality and efficiency of care.

The report includes the first ever catalogue of the types of partnerships that currently exist between the NHS and private sector companies that use the data held by the health service, as well as types of partnerships that could be explored in the future.

Eleonora Harwich, director of research at Reform, said of the partnerships: “So far the NHS has shied away from this uncomfortable conversation about partnerships with the private sector when data is involved.

"We need to have it to make sure that everyone benefits.”