Tech giant started by US billionaire 'clinches' £480m deal to handle NHS patient information

Palantir aims to join up medical information across the health service
Palantir aims to join up medical information across the health service


A tech giant founded by a US billionaire has won a £480 million contract handling NHS patient data, The Telegraph understands.

The controversial deal for the “federated data platform” to join up medical information across the health service is expected to be announced shortly, after a series of delays.

Palantir, the tech giant founded by Peter Thiel, a US Republican party donor, has long been the frontrunner for the contract.

The company, best known for its work with intelligence and military agencies in the US, put in a joint bid with professional services company Accenture for the platform, in the biggest IT contract in NHS history.

Peter Thiel, whose company is understood to have won a lucrative NHS contract
Peter Thiel, whose company is understood to have won a lucrative NHS contract - John Lamparski/Getty

In the UK, Palantir built the Covid dashboard, which saw data on vaccines, Covid deaths and hospitalisations tracked daily during the pandemic, and helped coordinate the vaccine rollout.

The planned software platform would join up existing NHS data in a bid to speed up diagnosis and reduce waiting times and hospital stays.

Dogged by controversy

Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, is a keen advocate of the platform, saying that the ability to bring a wealth of data now held in separate systems will improve patient safety and secure medical advances.

The plans have been dogged by controversy, with scepticism about the NHS’s record on major projects and data handling and concern about the involvement of the US company.

Earlier this year, Mr Thiel - a supporter of Donald Trump - told the Oxford Union that Britain’s affection for the NHS is akin to “Stockholm syndrome”, saying the NHS “makes people sick”.

Peter Thiel speaking at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford
Peter Thiel speaking at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford - John Lawrence

A spokesman for the company later said he was speaking as a private individual, in comments that do not in any way reflect the views of Palantir.

Mr Thiel last month spoke at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, with a lecture entitled The Diversity Myth.

The British Medical Association has argued against awarding the contract to Palantir, saying on Monday that “without proper oversight and protections, patient data could be at significant risk”.

Ministers keen to avoid past errors

Health officials say the software will allow analysts to spot patterns in illness and use resources better, while ministers have said it will not be able to see individuals’ data.

Ministers are also keen to avoid errors made in the past, with a previous attempt at record sharing abandoned in 2016 following a backlash about the way the scheme had been handled.

Palantir had been seen by rivals as holding advantages over other bidders, having been awarded a £25 million interim contract to “transition” data to the new system this summer.

The company has said it is “not in the business of collecting, mining or selling data”, saying it provides customers with tools to organise and understand their own organisations.

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