Palantir and NHS: Gradually making inroads

This is a report from Financial Times:

Palantir gears up to expand its reach into UK’s NHS | Financial Times

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.

The company, best known for its ties to the security, defence and intelligence sectors, has been the NHS’s go-to data analytics provider during its Covid-19 crisis response. Its Foundry software was used in the management of ventilators and PPE equipment, delivery of the nationwide vaccination programme and helping to tackle the backlog of 6mn patients waiting for elective care.

I wonder-why can’t NHS spin off a division and create expertise in house? Assuming Palantir fouls up or runs out of the contract, will NHS reinvite bids to run a proprietary system?

The opposition to Palantir is because of “close ties” with the “intelligence agencies” and therefore a risk of “snooping on people’s healthcare information”. Unless there is direct proof that Palantir is engaging in dicey practices like digital advertising based on healthcare data. Financial Times also reports that “other potential bidders could include consulting firms such as Accenture, PwC and KPMG, who have technology partners such as Oracle and Microsoft”

If there is public money involved, can opposition be far behind?

No Palantir in Our NHS – No Palantir

There is no public health without public trust. So every partner of the NHS must be held to the highest standards. We can’t allow any public partner in the NHS who would undermine that trust.

Palantir fails the trust test. Palantir, a secretive US data company, wants a long-term role deeply embedded in NHS infrastructure. But it’s spent most of its history helping the powerful abuse the powerless. The CIA’s dirty wars in Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Police’s racist predictive policing scheme. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s brutal operations at the US-Mexico border. 

While the geopolitical reasons listed here are reprehensible, making that association with a company working on NHS seems foolhardy. I would have preferred the combination of “non-profits” opposing the NHS-Palantir contract, instead propose something useful around creating in-house expertise to provide gainful employment. In lieu of that, it smacks of political dissent alone. Healthcare shouldn’t be politicised.

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