US Tech company, Palantir, has secured a £330 million contract with NHS England to develop a new patient data platform. The aim of the platform is to bring existing patient data together to improve patient care and waiting times. NHS England’s national medical director for secondary care, Vin Diwakar said, ‘better use of data is essential for the NHS to tackle waiting times, join up patient care and make the health service sustainable for the future.’
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The software, which will be known as the Federated Data Platform, aims to ease access to information by bringing existing patient data, such as health records, waiting lists and staff rosters, together to ‘talk’, it is hoped this will allow hospitals ‘to provide improved and more timely patient care’. Health Secretary, Victoria Atkins highlighted the benefits of pulling data into one place. She said, ‘The FDP will support key priorities of the NHS, including recovery of elective care and the improvement of discharge processes to get medically fit patients treated and home quicker.’
However, the contract has caused some controversy. Tuesday’s announcement has prompted concern over data protection given Palantir’s links to the military and security sectors. Some critics fear that the private company, co-founded by former Donald Trump backer and PayPal founder, Peter Thiel, could use the patient data for commercial gain.
Amnesty International UK’s Business and Human Rights Director, Peter Frankental, has urged for ‘proper transparency’ over how contracts are awarded and that Palantir should be required to provide ‘cast iron guarantees that they won’t monetise health data collected from the NHS’. He added that patients need ‘assurance that their personal information won’t be harvested by Palantir for purposes that have little to do with their health.’
But NHS England has attempted to assuage these concerns. The terms of the contract forbid any use of patient data for commercial gain and GP data will not be fed into the national version of the platform. ‘No company involved in the Federated Data Platform can access health and care data without the explicit permission of the NHS,’ it said. The Health Secretary has also insisted that ‘data will not leave the UK’.
Palantir previously worked with the NHS during the pandemic, with one of its systems reducing waiting lists by 28% in Chelsea and Westminster NHS foundation trust. The new Federated Data Platform system will be rolled out next year, with Accenture, PwC, NECS and Carnall Farrar supporting Palantir on the development of the FDP. Palantir said it is ‘humbled to have now been chosen to provide that software across England to help bring down waiting lists, improve patient care and reduce health inequality’.