The NHS has been criticised for handing a major £330m contract to US spy technology company Palantir.
The suitability of Palantir to be given access to and oversight of sensitive material has been raised by MPs, tech, medical and civil liberties groups.
But the NHS has hit back and said the new software being introduced as a result of the deal will help to tackle long waiting lists.
The technology, it says, allows individual health service trusts – as well as the NHS’s 42 integrated care systems which are regional groupings of trusts – to talk to each other digitally.
Palantir is known for working closely with intelligence agencies and military organisations including the CIA and Ministry of Defence, reports The Guardian.
Here the NHS responds to concerns about the suitability of the company, awarding of the contract as well as patient privacy fears put to the organisation by Express.co.uk
What will the technology achieve?
An NHS spokesperson said: “The software will bring together existing NHS data, making it easier for staff to access key information to provide improved and more timely patient care.
“The new tool, known as the Federated Data Platform, will join up key information currently held in separate NHS systems to tackle some of the big challenges the health service faces coming out of the pandemic.
“By bringing together real time data, such as the number of beds in a hospital, the size of elective waiting lists, staff rosters, the availability of medical supplies and social care places, staff can plan and maximise resources such as operating theatre and outpatient clinic time to ensure patients receive more timely care.”
It added: “Pilot projects using the new data-sharing approach have seen a drop in waiting times for planned care and in discharge delays, and seen faster diagnosis and treatment times.
“Since introducing the system, North Tees and Hartlepool Trust has reduced long term stays (21 days or more) by 36% despite increased demand, with 7.7% more patients being admitted to the hospital.”
How Palantir was chosen
An NHS spokesperson said: “Following an open and competitive tender process, the contract to provide the software has been awarded to a group led by Palantir Technologies UK, with support from Accenture, PwC, NECS and Carnall Farrar.
“The contract award will see investment over the course of seven years as more trusts join the platform. In the first contract year, investment is expected to be at least £25.6m. Over the contractual period of seven years, there will be up to £330m investment in the Federated Data Platform and associated services.”
It added: “NHS England has conducted a fair and transparent procurement in line with Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
“The procurement route was inclusive and open to all potential suppliers to bid, subject to meeting the minimum criteria.”
It added: “The successful supplier has gone through rigorous checks and assessment prior to contract award and there will be continued due diligence throughout the life of the contract.”
Should patients be worried about privacy?
An NHS spokesperson said: “No company involved in the Federated Data Platform can access health and care data without the explicit permission of the NHS.
“All data within the platform is under the control of the NHS and will only be used for direct care and planning.
“It will not be used to access data for research purposes and GP data will not feed into the national version of the software platform.”
It added: “We are committed to keeping patient information safe, being transparent about how it is used and respecting patient choice – privacy, security, and transparency is at the heart of the design.”