LONDON — Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) on Tuesday awarded a £330 million contract to run a new data platform to a bid spearheaded by U.S. tech company Palantir.
Under a deal initially set to run for five years, Palantir, alongside Accenture and PwC, will provide a “Federated Data Platform” to the NHS. The platform is a bid to connect the many different data systems within the U.K.’s sprawling, publicly-funded healthcare system.
Health bosses say the FDP will improve patient care and stop patients having to repeatedly explain their ailments to staff at different hospitals.
But the tender has attracted criticism from campaigners, who fret that it will lead to controversial U.S. tech firm Palantir gaining a central role in Britain’s cherished NHS.
Palantir, which had long been tipped to win the contract, has courted controversy because of links to former Donald Trump donor Peter Thiel and work for national security agencies and militaries.
“The safety and security of patient data is front and centre of this new system,” Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said as she confirmed the decision on Tuesday. “As happens currently, there will be clear rules and auditability covering who can access this data, what they can see, and what they can do.”
The provider of the software would not hold or have access to NHS data, which would not leave the U.K., Atkins added.
Still, the government said it had awarded an additional contract to a separate company to deliver privacy enhancing technology “as an additional safeguard to enhance the security of data used in the FDP.”
Ahead of the announcement Cori Crider, co-founder of Foxglove, an NGO that has campaigned against Palantir, said: “The FDP will also fail unless government urgently moves to close the trust gap. Every prior effort to centralize NHS data has failed because people didn’t trust officials to protect their health records from other departments or private companies.”
In June, the NHS awarded a £24 million contract to Palantir to transition its current projects with the health service — which include COVID-19 work — to the new federated data platform supplier.
Update: This story has been updated to clarify the value of the deal, which had originally been slated as £480 million. In its press release today, however, the NHS said that over the contractual period of seven years, there will be up to £330m investment in the Federated Data Platform and associated services.
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