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Ethics briefing
  1. Rebecca Mussell,
  2. Sophie Brannan,
  3. Veronica English,
  4. Caroline Ann Harrison,
  5. Julian C Sheather
  1. Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Rebecca Mussell, Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, WC1H 9HW, UK; rmussell{at}

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In December 2022, the Office of the National Data Guardian (NDG)1 for health and social care in England published new guidance: What do we mean by public benefit? Evaluating public benefit when health and adult social care data is used for purposes beyond individual care.2

Research in the UK consistently demonstrates that for the public to consider a secondary use3 of health and care data appropriate and acceptable, it must deliver a benefit back to the public.4 The aim of the guidance is to help organisations to interpret and demonstrate the public good from their work more comprehensively, accurately, and consistently.

The guidance defines and standardises the concept of public benefit to enable clearer interpretation and understanding. It aims to support better public benefit evaluations by:

  • explaining what public benefit is, and how it is determined by the public, when data collected during care is used in service planning, innovation, and research;

  • considering the factors that the public believe to be important when organisations use health and care data for planning and research;

  • providing greater explanation, including case studies, to a concept that has lacked a clear definition, providing a shared understanding of what public benefit is across the sector; and

  • supporting organisations to determine whether data collected during the provision of people’s care can also be used for purposes other than care provision.5 6

As the guidance is underpinned by a detailed dialogue with the public on what counts as a public benefit, it is hoped that following it will …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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