A FIVE-year deal between the trust that runs Musgrove Park Hospital and a medical research firm has been welcomed - so long as patients' personal data is not compromised.

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust is being paid to supply "anonymised patient data" to Sensyne Health plc.

Sensyne will use the information to carry out "clinical artificial intelligence research...to improve patient care and accelerate research into new medicines".

In return the trust will receive up to £1,250,000 over five years and 1.11 per cent of Sensyne's share capital.

The trust will also receive a royalty on revenues generated by Sensyne from the research undertaken.

Cash received by the trust will be reinvested back into the NHS.

The initiative, which involves six other trusts across the country, aims to help come up with new medicines and ensure patients receive the most appropriate treatments.

David Shannon, director of strategic development and improvement for Somerset NHS Foundation Trust said: "We believe this partnership has the potential to help us improve care further and contribute to improvements in care across the country. "The terms of the contract provide our organisation with the investment needed for us to anonymise the data before providing it to Sensyne Health and for us to benefit from any breakthroughs that Sensyne makes. "Data is essential for research that pushes the boundary of our knowledge and improves patient care.

"We are delighted that we have reached an agreement that enables us to contribute towards innovations by providing anonymised data."

Sensyne chief executive Lord Drayson said: "This new agreement will enable research to improve patient care and accelerate medical research and by helping to grow our overall data set to over 5.6 million patients, will now enable us to broaden our research and expand our therapeutic focus."

AI research using hospital data at Sensyne currently includes stroke prediction, heart failure treatment, Covid-19 lung impact and Covid-19 risk.

Dr Nick Scott-Ram chief of strategic development at Sensyne said research will be undertaken "to the highest standards of information governance and data security" in accordance with NHS principles, the Government Code of Practice and data protection legislation.

He added that checks will be in place at the trust and Sensyne to ensure no confidential information is shared, while patients will have the power to opt out of the initiative.

Gideon Amos, who plans to stand for the LibDems at the next General Election in Taunton Deane, said: "Any move that can ultimately develop better treatments is to be welcomed and we want to see our local health trust thrive.

"But it is essential that personal data remains completely confidential so people have trust in the new venture."