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US data analytics group Palantir has secured an NHS England contract worth £330mn to develop a new patient data platform, the health service announced on Tuesday.
NHS England said the new software, called the Federated Data Platform, will make it “easier for staff to access key information to provide improved and more timely patient care” by bringing together existing patient data sets. It added that the platform will be rolled out next year.
Led by chief executive Alex Karp and co-founded by Peter Thiel, the tech investor and prominent backer of Donald Trump, Palantir became the go-to data analytics provider for the NHS during the pandemic.
Accenture, PwC, NECS and Carnall Farrar will all support Palantir, NHS England said on Tuesday. “No company involved in the Federated Data Platform can access health and care data without the explicit permission of the NHS,” it added.
NHS England said the deal will be worth “up to £330mn” over seven years.
Palantir is best known for its ties to the security, defence and intelligence sectors. In recent months NHS staff and medical trade unions have voiced concerns about its suitability to run national health systems, as well as the dangers of the service relying on a single private company for key functions.
Health secretary Victoria Atkins said the platform “will sit across NHS trusts and integrated care systems, allowing them to connect data they already hold, such as health records, waiting lists, and theatre and staff rosters, in a safe and secure environment, to better manage patient care”.
“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,” she added.
NHS England said the software will enable staff to “plan and maximise resources such as operating theatre and outpatient clinic time to ensure patients receive more timely care”.
In response to the concerns about private sector companies’ access to NHS data, Atkins insisted that “data will not leave the UK”.
The terms of the contract forbid the use of patient data for commercial gain, but human rights group Amnesty International said the deal has “huge implications for data protection”, adding that Palantir should give “cast-iron guarantees” that they will not monetise health data.
“The public who rely on the NHS need to have confidence that their informed consent will be obtained at all stages of data-gathering,” said Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s business and human rights director, “and assurance that their personal information won’t be harvested by Palantir for purposes that have little to do with their health.”
Responding to the announcement, Palantir’s Karp said: “This award is the culmination of 20 years of developing software that enables complex, sensitive data to be integrated in a way that protects security, respects privacy and puts the customer in full control.”
“There is no more important institution in the UK than the NHS and we are humbled to have now been chosen to provide that software across England to help bring down waiting lists, improve patient care and reduce health inequalities,” he added.
Vin Diwakar, NHS England’s national medical director for secondary care, 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.”
Additional reporting by Cristina Criddle in London
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