NHS England’s controversial £360m data platform is lined up for Trump supporter’s firm | NHS

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A NHS Project to integrate tens of millions of personal digital medical records into one of the largest healthcare data platforms in the world to launch without seeking new patient consent.

Health officials confirmed the proposed new £360million data platform this weekend England will incorporate the NHS’s shared care records, which track patients across the health and care system.

The American software company Palantir, which is managed by the billionaire donald trump Supporter Peter Thiel is considered the favorite to win the contract. The firm has hired two senior NHS officials and has been advised by Global Counsel, the consultancy set up by former Labor Cabinet Secretary Lord Mandelson.

Ministers revealed in parliamentary replies that the patient information project does not require public consultation before the five-year contract is tendered, or additional patient consent. They say the project, dubbed a federated data platform, will help improve care and provide new insights into the nation’s health.

Clive Lewis, the Labor MP, said: “It looks like the deal has been designed to hand it over to Palantir. There should be a proper debate about the use of this data so people can make an informed choice.”

Activists warn that the government risks undermining public trust if it plans to “push” hospital data to a private contractor without proper consultation. They say patients have a “legal say.”

Peter Thiel, who founded Palantir in 2003, is a strong supporter of Donald Trump. He is also co-founder of PayPal. Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Palantir was co-founded in 2003 by Thiel, a tech entrepreneur Major donor to the Republican Party. It has done extensive work for the intelligence sector and was originally funded by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm.

Winning the contract would be a coup for Palantir, originally tasked with working with the NHS for a nominal fee of just £1 during the Covid pandemic. In December 2020, the company was awarded a £23.5million contract to provide real-time information on disease and vaccination prevalence during the outbreak.

Cori Crider, director of rights campaign group Foxglove, said: “[Palantir] is a company that has worked with border troops, spies and the police. They have no place in the NHS.”

The contract notice for the project is awaiting signature from Health Secretary Steve Barclay and “will be issued in the coming weeks”. An official said the new project will help “reduce wait times, speed up diagnosis and get people home quicker.”

Shared Care Records, launched in April 2021, are being rolled out by Integrated Care Boards, the newly formed partnerships of NHS bodies, local authorities and other organisations.

The records contain a wide range of information, including name, address, date of birth, medical condition, medications, medical notes, welfare, and security information. The recordings will be ‘anonymized’ for wider use on the proposed NHS platform for research and analysis to allow for more targeted care.

Peter Mandelson, whose consulting firm Global Counsel, advised Palantir.
Palantir was advised by Peter Mandelson’s consulting firm Global Counsel. Photo: Justin Tallis/Getty Images

Under the proposed new project, information will not be consolidated into a central database, but can be analyzed across hundreds of different systems across England. Ministers say information will be transferred from existing data sets which already have “a lawful basis for collection and processing”.

An official said: “Only people who need to access patient-identifiable information in a shared care record can access information pulled from the record for use on the platform.”

Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, which promotes confidentiality and consent in health and social care, has described the federated data platform project as “the veins through which patient data would flow”. He said there should have been consultation and detailed information on the legal justification for the proposed use of patient records.

The NHS has failed to gain public trust in previous systems for using sensitive patient data. A plan to share GP records for research stalled last year after it was criticized as “data theft” by activists.

NHS England has already instructed NHS Digital, the national provider of healthcare data and information, to use Palantir’s operating platform, called Foundry, to collect patient data from acute funds, including a person’s NHS number, date of birth, postcode and details of admission and stationary activities. Data is pseudonymised before being shared with NHS England. Palantir also has a project that works with hospital foundations to reduce waiting lists.

dr Nicola Byrne, the national data protection officer, said her office advises the government on public engagement. She said: “I fully agree with the goals and ambitions of the federated data platform program. Improving access to quality data is key to improving health and care outcomes.”

NHS England officials say they will now develop a public pact on the protection of medical data, which is being outlined in government Policy paper Data saves lives published in June. They also want the public to understand the benefits of using NHS data to speed up diagnosis and reduce wait times for clinicians.

An NHS spokesman said the contract was an open tender and several companies had expressed interest. They added that the company that received the order may not have access to the data or share it for their own purposes. The award is expected to take place in the summer of 2023.

The spokesman said: “Data platforms are already being used by NHS trusts to reduce cancer wait times, speed up diagnosis, treat and get people home faster. We want to extend the benefits across England.

“Maintaining the public’s trust in how the NHS is handling their personal data is of paramount importance. We have some of the most robust data safeguards in the world and have worked extensively with privacy groups, physicians and patients on these proposals.”

A Palantir spokesman said: “We are incredibly proud of our support for the NHS. Our software helped the NHS save thousands of lives by supporting the Covid vaccination programme. It is now helping to reduce the backlog of votes in hospitals.”

The company says it sells software products and does not monetize or collect any personal information.

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