Thank you to all of those who have continued to contact 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, diagnosis, and treatment. 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 were demonstrated throughout the pandemic, as the NHS, in collaboration with stakeholders, sought 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, and it will be clear about people’s rights and choice to opt out.
In June 2023, NHSE awarded Palantir a ‘transition’ contract worth £25 million without an open tender process. NHSE said this interim contract is designed to ensure there is no gap in service provision and support the smooth transition from one platform to another. But I recognise concerns that Palantir may be being given an unfair competitive advantage.
The full contract, expected to be granted in the coming months, is worth £480m. The scope of the FDP is vague, but there is no doubt that the data it stores will be both vast and sensitive, so it is vital that any procurement process is fair and transparent and enables the public to engage with it so that the system works as intended.
I assure you I will follow developments in this area closely and bear in mind the points you raise.
Thank you once again to all those who have contacted me about this issue.