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Campaign group takes legal step against NHS Federated Data Platform contract


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Social campaigning organisation the Good Law Project has taken a step in a legal action towards NHS England over the contract with Palantir Technologies for the development of the Federated Data Platform (FDP).

It has sent a pre-action protocol letter to NHS England protesting at heavy redactions in the contract it published in November of last year, amounting to almost three-quarters of the text. It says this is against the principles of transparency and calls for the contract to be republished without redactions, or at least only for those for which it is justified under Freedom of Information Act policies, and that these should be clearly labelled.

The letter says that the Good Law Project considers the case is unlikely to be suitable for an alternative dispute resolution process, but is willing to engage in discussions on how its concerns might be resolved.

The organisation has called on NHS England to reply within 14 days of the letter being sent on 12 February.

The moves comes on the trail of persistent concerns over Palantir’s role in developing the FDP, which is a platform for NHS trusts and integrated care systems to share data for analysis and planning. The company has a background in security and surveillance technology and its involvement has stirred up anxieties about how the data could be handled.

Astounding redactions

Good Law Project’s legal manager, Ian Browne, said: “The scale of unjustified redactions in these contracts is quite astounding. Government defence contracts have fewer blacked out pages.

“Our medical data might now be flowing more freely than ever before, but the public deserves to see the terms on which these tech giants will be processing and using it.

“We previously raised concerns about how existing transparency issues over how NHS patient records are handled would get worse with Palantir at the helm of the Federated Data Platform. We’ve been proved right and now NHS England must act”.

The letter also raises a challenge over redactions to a contract with IQVIA for the development of NHS-PET, a privacy enhancing technology tool for the health service, which will be used with the FDP. It points out that around three-quarters of this is blanked out.

Asked for its response, an NHS spokesperson said: "NHS England has received a pre-action protocol letter and will be responding formally in due course.”

Late last year another campaigning organisation, Foxglove, said it was beginning a legal challenge against Palantir’s involvement, urging the Government to explain how the FDP will comply with the law and that it was prepared to go to court.


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