Leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research

Project title
Exploring veterans’ physical and mental health needs within the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD)

Identity and contact details of the data controller
King’s College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS

If you would like to discuss anything related to this study please contact Dr Gemma Archer, Research Associate - [email protected]

This study has been funded by the Forces in Mind Trust using an endowment awarded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Who are we?
The study is carried out by King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), King’s College London (KCL), which is the leading civilian United Kingdom (UK) centre of excellence for military health research. KCMHR is independent of the UK Ministry of Defence and our work has helped shape government policy towards military personnel, veterans and their families. Our research is conducted within the KCL governance framework which ensures that our work is carried out to high scientific and ethical standards.

Study background
The study was set up in November 2022 to investigate whether the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) can be used to improve our understanding of the health needs of veterans. We have applied for access to the CPRD data; this consists of over 60 million electronic primary care records which are anonymised and provided by GP surgeries. The study aims to determine veterans in electronic primary care records, and then to explore whether there are differences between the health needs of veterans compared to those of the general population.

What information have we requested from the CPRD?
We will be using data from electronic primary care records provided by the CPRD. The data used in this study will include:

  • Demographic characteristics
  • Diagnoses relating to common physical and mental health disorders; for example, cardiovascular conditions, cancers, diabetes, depression, and anxiety
  • Medication prescriptions; for example, medication used to treat common mental health disorders or high blood pressure
  • Healthcare utilisation; for example, inpatient admissions, specialist referrals, and primary care consultations

Because the data are anonymised, the study team cannot identify your information from the dataset.

In order to validate that our data is correct, we will be contacting a number of GP practices to ensure the codes we use to determine veterans are consistent with their records.

Do you link any of my information with other sources of information?
A data linkage is when one source of information (data) is merged with another source to provide additional information. The CPRD provides routine anonymised data linkages between primary care and other health-related patient datasets, of which we have applied for access to Cancer Registration Data, the patient Index of Multiple Deprivation, and Admitted Patient Care data from the Hospital Episode Statistics.

How will my data be used?
We will use the data provided by the CPRD to conduct statistical analyses for academic research. We will publish our findings in scientific papers which will contain only anonymous, aggregated data (e.g., percentages and averages) presented as tables and figures. We will also share our results with the Forces in Mind Trust through regular study reports, as well as with veterans’ and Armed Forces communities, e.g., through relevant newsletters and websites.

If the findings show that the CPRD is a useful source for determining veterans’ health profiles in electronic records in the UK, this will help inform and tailor healthcare service provision to their needs.

Will the data be shared?
We will not pass any data to third parties.

How do we keep your data safe and secure?
The information provided to us by the CPRD has already been coded and anonymised, so no personal data will be stored by the study team. Anonymised data is stored securely on encrypted external hard-drives. Access to the data is restricted to authorised individuals.

How long will the data be kept?
Data supplied by the CPRD can be kept for 12 months initially, after which it will be securely destroyed. Should we need to extend our data access, an extension request will be submitted to the CPRD.

What is the legal basis for processing the data?
The legal basis under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for King’s College London holding and processing patient health data is:

  • Medical research and statistics: Article 6(e) and Article 9(2)(j) - public interest and scientific research purposes

What are my rights according to UK GDPR?
Because the patient data is anonymised, it is not possible for the CPRD or our study team to identify any individuals from the data the CPRD holds. Therefore, it is not possible for us to directly support an individual’s GDPR data subject rights.

GP practices are obliged to be transparent about sharing data with others. If it is not clear which organisations your GP practice shares data with, you can ask them whether they share anonymised patient data with the CPRD.

You have the right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office through their website: https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/ or their helpline: 0303 123 1113.

How can I access my own data?
To access your coded medical record, please contact your GP practice.

To obtain details about a cancer registration, see the website of the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-cancer-registration-and-analysis-service-ncras#patient-access-to-their-own-data.

Can I withdraw from the study?
The data we receive is anonymised so we cannot identify any participants to withdraw them from this study. However, if you would like to opt out from your GP record being shared with the CPRD so that your information is not used in any future studies, you can find out more about the National Data Opt-out in England: https://digital.nhs.uk/services/national-data-opt-out. If you are in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and you do not want your GP practice to share this information from your health record, let your doctor know.

Data Protection Officer
The King’s College London Data Protection Officer is Olenka Cogias, Interim Director of Information Governance and DPO. Contact: [email protected].

Date last reviewed and date last updated
By: Dr Gemma Archer - 02/03/2023

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