IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Gov 'forced into major U-turn' on NHS deal with Palantir, privacy group claims

Open Democracy claims victory despite dropping its lawsuit

The UK government has made a "major U-turn" after facing a lawsuit from Open Democracy over a £23 million NHS data contract awarded to controversial US firm Palantir.

Open Democracy claimed that the government "finally caved" in the face of the lawsuit even though the case was withdrawn, in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that the NHS has now committed to not extending Palantir’s contract beyond COVID without consulting the public.

It has also agreed to engage the public, via patient juries, about whether firms like Palantir are appropriate for a long-term role in the NHS at all.

“It’s a major U-turn at a critical moment. The NHS, with its unique trove of structured health data, is powerfully attractive to tech corporations. Palantir and other US tech firms clearly stand to profit from managing or accessing this asset, estimated to be worth £10bn a year,” wrote Mary Fitzgerald, Open Democracy’s editor in chief and Cori Crider, founding director of FoxGlove.

“The NHS datastore is the largest pool of private health data in NHS history, and that raises questions too important to be settled in secret deals. Should it survive the pandemic? On what terms? Should Palantir manage it, or are there more trustworthy alternatives?”

Open Democracy stated its mission is not complete. It is still seeking full transparency on the Palantir deal, wants to know what data is being fed into Palantir’s datastore, and is also keen to ensure that the public consultation the government has promised is far-reaching, not just a “box-ticking exercise”.

Fitzgerald and Crider also wrote: “We also need to fully understand and debate Matt Hancock’s long-term plans for our NHS. Our case was launched amid a major proposed shake-up of laws governing the NHS and its patient data.

"Proposals in the government’s recent white paper for health and social care would centralise NHS control under Matt Hancock, and could prepare the ground for larger slices of the NHS – including its £10bn/year health data assets – to be contracted to private tech firms.”

However, in a statement provided to IT Pro, an NHS spokesperson disputed Open Democracy's claims and said the group "have had to drop their court case unilaterally as it was apparent even to them that the NHS has always acted in accordance with its legal responsibilities.

"They, therefore, stood no chance of succeeding in their completely spurious claim. It would be more honest if they actually came clean with their crowdfunders that far from 'winning' this case they had no choice but to drop it when they realised they hadn’t a leg to stand on," the spokesperson added.

Palantir was awarded an “emergency” contract in March 2020 by the NHS to supposedly assist in handling the COVID pandemic. However, openDemocracy accused the government of “quietly” giving the company a contract extension in December and a bigger role in handling NHS data. The extension was for two years and affected other areas beyond COVID, such as Brexit and more, according to the organisation.

Open Democracy stipulates that the government has a duty to consult the public and users of the NHS before signing major NHS contracts with big tech, which led to the organisation launching the legal challenge in February.

This article originally stated that Open Democracy had won a lawsuit against the NHS. This was incorrect and the article has been updated to reflect this.

Featured Resources

What 2023 will mean for the industry

What do most IT decision makers really think will be the important trends and challenges in the coming year?

Free Download

2022 Magic quadrant for Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

SIEM is evolving into a security platform with multiple features and deployment models

Free Download

IDC MarketScape: Worldwide unified endpoint management services

2022 vendor assessment

Free Download

Magic quadrant for application performance monitoring and observability

Enabling continuous updating of diverse & dynamic application environments

View Now

Recommended

NHS IT issues costing doctors more than 13 million hours annually
IT infrastructure

NHS IT issues costing doctors more than 13 million hours annually

12 Dec 2022
Nvidia rolls out AI platform across NHS hospitals
artificial intelligence (AI)

Nvidia rolls out AI platform across NHS hospitals

29 Nov 2022
Automation is helping the NHS clear its patient backlog, but not as quickly as expected
automation

Automation is helping the NHS clear its patient backlog, but not as quickly as expected

28 Sep 2022
What is big data analytics?
Business strategy

What is big data analytics?

6 Sep 2022

Most Popular

Dutch hacker steals data from virtually entire population of Austria
data breaches

Dutch hacker steals data from virtually entire population of Austria

26 Jan 2023
GTA V vulnerability exposes PC users to partial remote code execution attacks
vulnerability

GTA V vulnerability exposes PC users to partial remote code execution attacks

23 Jan 2023
European partners expect growth this year, here are three ways they will achieve it
Sponsored

European partners expect growth this year, here are three ways they will achieve it

17 Jan 2023