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Accessing data and data security

Keeping your data private and secure

We know that information about your health and lifestyle is personal and private to you, and we made a commitment when you joined the study to protect your confidentiality. Information that identifies you – for example, your name, address and NHS number – is never shared with researchers.

We take our commitment to protecting your data very seriously. We continue to invest in the latest technology to keep us ahead of the curve, and we will continue to update you about all the steps we are taking to keep your data private and secure.

If you have specific questions you’d like us to address, please email

Our research community

Over 30,000 researchers globally have been approved to apply to use UK Biobank data to accelerate health research.

Researchers must undergo a vetting process carried out by our in-house team.

Researchers must work for a credible research organisation. We perform background checks and assess whether their research proposal qualifies as health research in the public interest. This means that the research is likely to benefit the health and wellbeing of society and would not cause harm, such as perpetuate stereotypes about certain groups. If the proposal raises any concerns, it is referred to our expert Access Committee.

When an application is approved, the research organisation must sign a legal agreement before any data can be accessed. This requires the researcher to safeguard the data and put their findings in the public domain. Researchers must provide us with an annual update to ensure their research remains in line with the agreed use.

All researchers go through this process regardless of whether they work for a university, a charity or a company. We charge researchers a fee to cover the costs of processing their application and making the data available. A UK Biobank special fund is available to cover the costs of access for researchers from low- and middle-income countries.

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Accessing your GP data

One of the most important aspects of UK Biobank is the collection of health data over time for each participant. To help us do this, you agreed that we could access your health-related records, along with other information about you, and make this available in a de-identified form for health research.

Accessing data from your GP is particularly useful for research, as it will help us to better understand the wide range of diseases that are managed by GPs, such as diabetes, dementia and many mental health conditions. Research using GP data has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people.

However, we have been unable to access health information from the majority of GP practices in England as they are not held centrally by the NHS. We are exploring ways to support GP practices to release the data in a streamline manner, and there are ongoing conversations about this with organisations such as the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association.

We understand that your GP record is personal and private, and we will not receive any written notes, free-text or letters from your GP. We will only receive coded data for health conditions and medications. For example, if you visit your GP with bronchitis, the GP will record the code for bronchitis and only this code will be shared with UK Biobank. Any notes from conversations that took place between you and your GP will remain confidential.

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