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UK's National Health Service will roll existing Palantir work into patient data platform

Does spy-tech supplier have a head start in bidding for the controversial deal it considers a 'must win'?

Documents from NHS England show services provided by Palantir – which began in the COVID-19 emergency – will become part of the controversial £360 million ($429 million) Federated Data Platform, a move critics argue gives the US spy-tech biz an unfair advantage in the competition.

Palantir has made the project a "must win" deal as it seeks to execute its "land and expand" strategy in the world's largest healthcare organization. Britain's NHS sits on patient health data estimated to be worth £9.6 billion ($11.4 billion) a year to pharmaceutical and health tech companies.

NHS England, a non-departmental body in the UK government, is set to launch the delayed procurement in the coming weeks, according to documents shared with potential bidders.

Some bidders fear Palantir has an unfair advantage as it initially bid a nominal £1 to create a data platform in 2020, said at the time to be necessary to help the NHS understand the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. It was later awarded a £23 million ($27.4 million) contract – without competition – to expand its work. In March last year, the UK government caved at the threat of a judicial review of the deal. Among three key concessions, the government said it would not offer companies like Palantir a long-term NHS role without consulting the public.

Earlier this month, NHS Digital board papers revealed the UK government is set to expand its use of the platform by extracting patient-identifiable data from NHS hospital systems and sharing this with the data platform based on technology from Palantir, in a move designed to help cut hospital waiting times. This has prompted warnings of further legal action by privacy campaigners.

According to documents seen by The Register, NHS England has now confirmed that this data extraction will need to be rolled into the £360 million (c $429 million) Federated Data Platform (FDP).

A potential bidder asked NHS England to confirm whether Palantir was being told to collect patient-level data from hospitals on a daily basis and whether this would have any bearing on the scope or timing of the procurement of the FDP. "We are aware that, since the supplier briefings earlier this year, a number of organizations have invested in bid preparations, and an update on the current position would be welcome in this regard," they said.

NHS England replied: "The data collection referred to is part of service provision under NHS England's existing contract with Palantir for the provision of a data platform, which is a software platform (Foundry) for the secure, reliable, and timely processing of data to enable NHS decision makers to best plan use of resources and improve patient care. Those services are within the scope of the requirement for the Federated Data Platform and would be transitioned to the FDP as part of its implementation in place of the existing platform." [Emphasis ours.]

The Register has contacted NHS England to give it the opportunity to respond. ®

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