Thank you to all those who have contacted me about the processing and sharing of patient data and NHS England’s plans for a federated data platform (FDP).
Data has the power to transform healthcare and support public services. Improving the way we use data can lead to better prevention, diagnoses, and treatments.
But for data sharing to work, it must be built on trust, and it must come with assurances over privacy.
The benefits of collaborative planning and research has been demonstrated throughout the pandemic, as the NHS, wider health and social care sector, academia, third sector, private sector, and the public at large all bound together to tackle the challenges posed by COVID-19.
It is in this spirit that I support the principle of improved data sharing, which is an important step towards planning and research improvements that will ultimately save lives through improved healthcare.
I recognise concerns, however, around the lack of transparency and the role of large corporations – such as Palantir – in handling patient data. Maintaining public confidence in how the NHS handles personal information must be paramount. There must be transparency on which aspects of patient data will be made available; which third-party organisations will have access; how the use of data is limited; what patients’ rights and the mechanisms to opt-out are; and the safeguards in place to protect confidential patient data.
The Government said NHS England (NHSE) is committed to transparency on the way data is used within the FDP to ensure that patients are informed of the choice to opt-out. NHSE will also publish information on who is accessing data and for what purpose.
Ministers said NHSE will procure the FDP via an open competition in line with existing procurement law. Procurement was due to launch in September 2022. However, reports confirm this has been delayed. I assure you I will follow developments in this area closely and bear in mind the points you raise.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.