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Latest 17 February 2024

We’re taking legal action to uncover Palantir’s blanked-out contract

Almost three quarters of the contract between the tech giant and the NHS is completely blanked out. It’s time to see what it’s hiding.

When we hand over our sensitive health data, we have to be able to trust that people will look after it. Even if you wanted to give the tech giant Palantir the benefit of the doubt, with its £330m contract to process NHS data there’s no way to tell: 417 out of 586 pages are completely blanked out.

We think this is not just completely unacceptable, but unlawful. Government policy requires public bodies to give reasons when contracts are redacted, but despite the massive scale of the redactions in Palantir’s contract no reasons have been given.

We have now launched legal proceedings against NHS England to uncover what these redactions conceal.

We’ve been raising concerns about Palantir running the NHS’s new system – the Federated Data Platform – because of the company’s questionable history and its CEO’s alarming comments about the NHS. And because we spoke out, Palantir secretly hired paid influencers through a Tory-linked PR agency to brief against us. The tech giant didn’t tell the NHS about its plan and is now under investigation over a potential contract breach.

But our concerns go wider than Palantir. The NHS has also signed a contract with the biotech firm IQVIA, to provide “Privacy Enhancing Technology” for the Federated Data Platform.

Around three-quarters of IQVIA’s contract is also completely redacted. This includes a section on the protection of personal data – precisely the issue IQVIA is being brought on board to address – so we’re challenging the NHS over this as well.

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What makes this all the more concerning is the power imbalance between the NHS and IQVIA uncovered by the doctor and academic Ben Goldacre in 2020. According to Goldacre, IQVIA is free to collect and aggregate NHS hospital data and sell it to the pharmaceutical industry, but it can restrict NHS access to this collated data and its ability to share it with UK regulatory bodies.

With the upcoming launch of the Federated Data Platform, NHS England says it’s committed to “being transparent” around patient data. But these obliterated contracts show it hasn’t delivered on this promise.

We’re also preparing to launch a separate legal challenge to make sure that every patient can properly protect their privacy by using an NHS data opt-out that is fit for purpose and complies with data rules.

We’ll be fighting hard so that patient data can unlock better healthcare in the UK, instead of unleashing a wave of intrusion and discrimination fuelled by dodgy tech giants.

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Protecting NHS patient data

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Protecting NHS patient data