A consortium of UK tech providers is competing with US big data firm Palantir for a £480m contract with NHS England. The contract for Federated Data Platform (FDP) is expected to go to Palantir, which has already won several lucrative healthcare services contracts. But opponents fear the company’s involvement could endanger patient privacy.
The consortium of British companies already serves more than 75% of the NHS, said Shane Tickell, CEO of Voror Health Technologies, one of the group’s companies.
UK consortium and Palantir clash over NHS contract
The consortium is made up of several companies, including Black Peak, Eclipse and Voror Health Technologies, report it FT. The consortium says it can deliver the system at a lower price while protecting UK patient data and investing the profits in the healthcare system.
He says he can be a realistic alternative bidder to Palantir which already provides services to the NHS and would aim to win more health service contracts. The company’s software, Foundry, has been used during the pandemic to help implement the vaccination program and manage ventilators and PPE equipment. He has since won a £23.5million deal to help manage cancer waiting lists.
As reported by Technical monitor, Palantir has been involved in the development of the FDP, winning contracts worth a total of £34.5 million related to the project. But critics say the secretive nature of the firm and its close ties to US security agencies such as the CIA make it unsuitable to work with public bodies in the UK.
Indeed, understanding NHS data held by Palantir is particularly difficult, says Sam Smith, policy manager at campaign group MedConfidential. “We have no transparency on the actual use of the Covid-19 data store,” he says. “We have a list of 150 projects, with titles like ‘vaccine logistics’. But what are the cleaning mechanisms [for the data]? Is there an inherent bias? »
Such a lack of transparency makes it difficult for independent bodies to verify whether the data is protected, adds Smith.
A Palantir spokesperson said, “Palantir is a software company, not a data company. We create software products that our customers use to integrate, harmonize and understand their data. Our business model does not and has never involved the collection, use or sale of personal data.
The British companies in the consortium say they are well placed to provide the platform.
“Our health service is full of idiosyncrasies that have historically proven difficult for foreign companies. We know what the NHS needs, as our company is made up of former clinicians and health informatics engineers with decades of experience working both within and alongside it means that all of our solutions are tailored to the specific needs of UK clinicians and patients,” said Black Peak CEO David Jehring.
What is FDP?
The contract itself is actually a quarter of a larger initial contract, which would have been broken by NHS England to improve the protection of employee and patient data. Anyone dealing with the FDP cannot own the privacy protection technology, a measure which the health body says has been put in place to promote the security of NHS data transfers.
The FDP is still the most valuable part of the now fragmented contract, and Palantir has been watching it since last summer. The initial market engagement notice said the data platform would be a “key enabler of transformational improvements” across the NHS, to be an “ecosystem of technologies and services”.
The level of data generated by the NHS is so large and so valuable that the health service has a duty to organize it appropriately so that it can be used to help patients, says the head of digital health at the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, Saira Ghafur:
“We are world class in collecting data and we don’t have the resources to fully work with this data,” says Ghafur. “So having all this infrastructure in place really shakes things up in terms of what we are able to do. It’s almost unethical to sit on all that data and not use it to its absolute potential.
Ghafur says the competition for the FDP contract is positive because the NHS can “see who brings the best deal to the table”, adding: “I think it’s great to have competition to see what the differences are, what can be provided and what they can have in the long term.
If it awards the contract to Palantir, the NHS must consider the impact this will have on public confidence in the service, says Ghafur. “One of the main pillars of doing this all right is maintaining the trust that exists between the NHS and the public,” she says.
“Whatever decision is made, reliability and transparency must be communicated for patients and the public to believe.”
Technical monitor has contacted NHS England for comment on the contract.