NHS Trusts have found themselves with shares in a technology company that are virtually worthless as the company gets new owners and goes private. The trusts received the shares in return for data on millions of NHS patients.


Twelve NHS trusts have data-sharing agreements with Sensyne, a company based in Oxford, which uses the data for AI-enabled analysis that can help speed up development of new medicines by pharmaceutical companies. 


The data gives Sensyne access to detailed information on demographics, diagnosis, treatment, medication, biochemical and genetic tests and procedures, images, pathology, vital signs and genomics data for millions of patients.


The firm’s financial difficulties became evident in late 2021, and in November 2021, Sensyne announced a formal sale process (FSP), which led to discussions with corporates and financial sponsors.


Even as the company’s finances hit major problems, in December 2021, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust signed a strategic research agreement with Sensyne giving the company access to three million patient records bringing the total of anonymised records in the UK to 12.9 million patients.


By April 2022, the company had secured additional capital of up to £26.3 million to continue, and its founder, the Labour peer Lord Drayson, had been replaced as CEO by Alex Snow. But, the new investors have taken the company private and shares will no longer be traded on the AIM (the section of the London Stock Exchange for small/medium sized companies).


Although the Ordinary Shares held by the NHS hospital trusts will continue to be a valid equity interest in Sensyne with full voting rights and rights to future dividends, the AIM delisting means there will be no public market in the UK on which the Ordinary Shares can be traded, therefore they now have negligible value. The Times reported that the company’s rescue package will lead to existing shareholders “being wiped out”, including the NHS trusts who supply the patient data that underpins the business.


HSJ has reported that the amount of data sent to Sensyne varies across the trusts. When questioned, not all trusts responded, with only five of the 12 trusts confirming they had sent data to the company, including Chelsea and Westminster Hospitals FT (1.5 million data items since 2019-20) and Milton Keynes University Hospital FT (180,000 data items since 2020). Five trusts said they had not yet sent data, others did not respond.


The trusts holding agreements with Sensyne have taken varying approaches to the changes at the company, according to HSJ.


A spokeswoman for Royal Devon University Healthcare FT told HSJ that the value of the trust’s shares had been “reduced to negligible”, whereas other trusts could not assign a value to the shares. Trusts who responded to HSJ noted that they are waiting to see what changes take place at the company before reviewing their positions.

As well as the shares, several trusts have received payments from the company, including Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children which received £50,000, and Royal Devon University Healthcare FT which is receiving a £165,000 grant paid in instalments.

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