Fears Are Mounting:
Palantir is not a “data broker” or “data aggregator.”
A second NHS official is set to join for Palantir after it was reported that the US software company has emerged as a “front-runner” for a £360million contract.
Harjeet Dhaliwal, deputy director of data services at NHS England and NHS Improvement will follow Indra Joshi, former NHSX director of AI.
A spokesperson for Palantir confirmed to Digital Health News that Dhaliwal was joining the company, but said she would not be “working on any NHS related projects”.
“We are delighted that Harjeet is joining Palantir’s UK team, which we are aiming to grow by 250 this year,” they said.
News of the latest appointment by Palantir follows reports that the company is in the running for NHS England’s procurement of a Federated Data Platform. The procurement, which is due to begin in July, is expected to be awarded in November.
The initial market engagement notice for the project outlined a three-year, £240 million procurement to build the NHS Federated Data Platform, described as “an ecosystem of technologies and services implemented across the NHS in England”.
The duration of the contract has since been extended to five years, bumping the price up to £360m, according to a news report by the Financial Times and confirmed to Digital Health News by NHS England.
According to the notice, the platform will be built on five use cases. They include: population health and person insight; care coordination (Integrated Care System); elective recovery; vaccines and immunization; and supply chain.
The procurement will be split between two main lots: the FDP itself – with Integrated Care System (ICS) integration and consultancy and communications support for ICS implementation and adoption – and privacy-enhancing technology.
According to NHS England over 80 suppliers responded to the initial procurement briefing.
The FT report said the briefing materials heaped praise on Palantir’s Foundry platform with “several figures at the NHS” saying “Palantir is viewed as the frontrunner”.
“The current platform is delivering huge benefits and was critical to the success of the vaccination and PPE programmes,” the briefing reportedly said.
The contract for the proposed nationally procured and managed analytics platform is intended to connect and integrate patient and other data sources, and envisaged as underpinning the operation of Integrated Care Systsems.
Palantir is already working with the NHS as it was awarded a £23m three-year contract by NHS England to provide the Covid-19 Data Store, and the platform was one of the tools used to help manage the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Palantir’s Foundry software has so far been used in the management of ventilators and PPE equipment, delivery of the nationwide vaccination programme and helping plan how to tackle the backlog of 6 million patients waiting for elective care.
In a statement to Digital Health News NHS England said: “The NHS COVID-19 Data Store and Platform pulled in live information from across the country which helped us to anticipate the virus, protect the most vulnerable, put resources where they were needed and ultimately deliver the largest vaccination programme in NHS history.
“Since then we have given NHS teams new predictive technology to help them maximise their available capacity; new software to cleanse and reduce their waiting lists; new tools to help them coordinate care and open up more slots in theatres for routine operations. We have freed up more clinical time to care.”
US data analytics group Palantir is gearing up to become the underlying operating system for the UK’s National Health Service, poaching senior NHS officials as part of a bid to win a £360mn contract to manage the data of millions of patients across England.
Palantir recently hired AI Chief From U.K.’s NHS as the company tried to expand further. Indra Joshi quit as director of AI for NHSX in March, saying it was “time to take a break before moving on to my next challenge.” She has since lined up a job with the U.S. data technology company founded by Peter Thiel.
A Palantir spokesman said the company was “delighted that Indra has agreed to join the team, which we are aiming to grow by 250 in the U.K. this year.”
The company is expanding rapidly in Britain, where it currently employs 600 people and processes sensitive data for the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office. Under the NHS Covid-19 Data Store contract, it is helping to clear the backlog of patient cases that were left untreated because of the pandemic.
“Palantir has said this is a must-win deal for them,” said a person with knowledge of Palantir’s expansion plans in the UK. “This is a five-year contract, with an option for an extension for two years. [Many people] think it’s really £1bn over 10 years. Once Palantir is in, how are you going to remove them?”
According to several figures at the NHS and at its suppliers, Palantir is viewed as the frontrunner for the FDP contract, which runs until 2027. The platform will be used for the national management of vaccines and immunisation programmes, population health, elective waiting lists and medicines and equipment supply chains, among other applications.
Fears Are Mounting:
As fears mount of Palantir’s position in the current £360 million FDP procurement, Foxglove director Cori Crider told The Register: “Palantir spent the pandemic digging into our NHS like a leech and the critter is getting worryingly fat off public funds.
“A firm that mainly supports governments to spy, wage war, and deport has no place in healthcare. Period. But this isn’t just about one – very – nasty company.
“Middle managers at the NHS now hope to make Thiel’s spy-tech firm the ‘operating system’ for the whole NHS – presiding over a massive new ‘Federated Data Platform’ that could sweep in everything from your GP record to your hospital records to social care data.
“This is centralization on a scale we’ve never seen before, and it presents stark questions about who we want seeing our health records and why. Lots of people want to feel safe to contribute their data to help the NHS – in a way they can trust and that gives them control. But who will have the keys to this vast new system, and who really benefits – is it our hardworking doctors and nurses, or will it be government bureaucrats and private firms?
“The stakes are huge. Last year over a million people opted out of the NHS Data Grab because they feared government misuse of their information and profiteering from the private sector. Twelve months later, how many patients have heard of this giant new ‘Federated Data Platform’?
Foxglove has sought details over exactly how it will work, the scope of patient information it will sweep in, and who will have access. We’ve been given almost nothing.
“This presents grave risks to trust in the health service. The government has got to get this right. And if they don’t, we’re more than happy to see them in court.”
NHS England said the NHS COVID-19 Data Store and Platform pulled in live information from across the country, helping it to anticipate the spread of the virus, protect the most vulnerable, put resources where they were needed, and manage the largest vaccination program in NHS history.
Since then, it has given NHS teams new predictive technology to help maximize their available capacity; new software to cleanse and reduce their waiting lists; new tools to help them coordinate care; and open up more slots in theaters for routine operations.
OpenDemocracy reported that, “experts have warned that contracts with the secretive company could involve an “unprecedented” transfer of patients’ sensitive health information.”
Palantir has been awarded more than £46m in public contracts by the UK government and NHS since the start of 2020.
The British OpenDemocracy group said that, “everyone should be worried about Palantir.”
“At the bank JP Morgan, an investigations team worked with Palantir to find internal malpractice. Palantir’s tools inspired the team to collect as much data as possible on staff. A staffer wielding those tools lamented that: “The world changed when it became clear everyone could be targeted using Palantir… everyone’s a suspect, so we monitored everything. It was a pretty terrible feeling.”
Furthermore, OpenDemocracy said that Palantir is too powerful:
“While we have been assured that all the data being fed into the datastore is anonymised, even supposedly anonymised data can become linked amongst wider data pools. This is part of what makes Palantir’s products powerful.”
Palantir is not a “data broker” or “data aggregator.”
“Palantir has often been described as a secretive company. There is some truth to this. For many years, we primarily served institutions with exceptional confidentiality expectations in fields like defence and intelligence. Palantir had little choice but to remain silent about our work, even when misunderstandings about the nature of the business appeared in the media or in the public sphere.”
Unlike many tech companies, the Palantir business model is not based on the monetisation of personal data. Palantir does not collect, store, or sell personal data. Palantir does not use personal data to train proprietary AI or machine learning models to share or resell to other customers. Palantir never facilitates the movement of data between clients, except where those specific clients have entered into an agreement with each other.
“Palantir builds digital infrastructure for data-driven operations and decision making. Our products serve as the connective tissue between an organisation’s data, its analytics capabilities, and operational execution. Palantir’s platforms tie these together by bringing the right data to the people who need it, allowing them to take data-driven decisions, conduct sophisticated analytics, and refine operations through feedback. We license this software to organisations, who receive secure and unique instances of our platforms in which to conduct their own work on their own data.”
This infrastructure helps organisations bring the right data together at the right time to answer complex questions and make intelligent decisions. This is particularly valuable when existing systems are fragmented, and essential information is held in silos that can’t communicate with each other.