The NHS justified the decision as necessary, explaining that researching and analyzing patients' hospital data will help the NHS better understand and tackle the crisis in treatment waiting times resulting from the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To accelerate this endeavor, NHS England has instructed NHS Digital to gather patient data from hospitals and extract it to its data platform based on Palantir's Foundry enterprise data management portal.
A Nov. 4 report by British technology news website the Register and a Twitter thread by Phil Booth of MedConfidential elaborated on the scheme.
The mentioned thread included that on page 158 of the board papers, NHS England instructed NHS Digital to use Palantir Tech's Foundry platform to "collect patient-level identifiable [hospital] data pertaining to admission, inpatient, discharge and outpatient activity from acute care settings on a daily basis."
NHS faced a scandal last summer when they came up with a plan to digitally scrape the general practice data of up to 55 million patients and share it with any private third parties willing to pay for it. The only difference from their last year's agenda for this year is that they allowed patients to opt-out of the scheme – but they didn't bother telling them about it until three weeks before the deadline. Reports went out in time, so the scandal erupted. NHS England officials shelved the proposition, saying they needed to focus on reaching out to patients and reassuring them their data is safe.
And now that the data sharing proposition controversy died down, the health agency is on an even more egregious scheme as the latest endeavor with Palantir does not provide any opt-out choice for Britons.
"One of the great requirements for health tech is a single health database," Damindu Jayaweera, head of technology research at U.K. investment bank Peel Hunt, told Investors' Chronicle. He added that there are only two places he knows – China and the U.K. – that digitize the data of the whole population from birth to death.
Early this year, the Financial Times reported that Palantir aspires to become the underlying data operating system for the NHS. It has even lured two senior NHS managers to its executive suites, including the former chief of artificial intelligence. Allegedly, it is targeting an ultimate prize of a five-year, £360 million ($425.6 million) contract to manage the personal health data of millions of patients.
For the second time, NHS's plan has been revealed – thanks to the publication of the board paper just hours before NHS Digital's board meeting on Nov. 1.
The NHS's decision to grant custodianship of patients' hospital data to Palantir without even informing the patients' worries a lot of Britons. The entire agenda is like an open hacking operation, especially since the firm being contracted is considered one of the darkest companies in the tech sphere.
Palantir was set up in 2003 with seed money from the Central Intelligence Agency's venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Its main line of business is to provide data-mining technology to support U.S. military operations, mass surveillance and predictive policing. Its technology is also used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify illegal migrants before detaining and deporting them.
In 2018, thousands of Google employees refused to participate in Project Maven, a secret Pentagon-funded AI pilot program taken up by Palantir. In February 2021, the company's CEO boasted to investors that Palantir was driving toward being "inside of every missile, inside of every drone."
According to Durden, this is a company that deals with death on a daily basis and is also rapidly building a stake in the health and life services sector. In September 2021, the U.K.'s Department for Health and Social Care was forced to terminate a contract with Palantir over the management of social care data, following a massive protest campaign involving more than 50 groups.
"While it is clear that good data management has a crucial role to play in the future of health and social care provision, Palantir's unshakeable commitment to proprietary, secretive software development methodologies makes it woefully ill-suited for NHS service provision," Durden added. (Related: New update to UK NHS tracking app turns it into a VACCINE PASSPORT.)
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