Stephen Childs: Federated Data Platform

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Dec 20, 2023

Last month it was announced that the consortium known as the Better Outcomes Collective had been awarded the contract to deliver the national Federated Data Platform for NHS England. The consortium is led by Palantir Technologies UK, with support from Accenture, PwC, Carnall Farrar and NECS.

The Federated Data Platform (FDP), will link key information currently held in separate NHS systems to tackle some of the biggest challenges the health service faces post pandemic.

Since this announcement I have been asked by colleagues across the health and care sector about NECS’ role in the consortium so I thought I would share some of my reflections with you.

Some of you may be aware that in 2021 NECS was given the challenge by NHSE of demonstrating the value of NHS Foundry through data-driven, problem-solving applications. Our response was to develop OPTICA – the Optimised Patient Tracking & Intelligent Choices Application. OPTICA is a secure cloud application, built in collaboration with NHS Trusts and local authorities, which tracks all admitted patients, and the tasks relating to their discharge, in real-time throughout their hospital journey. We developed the tool on  NHS Foundry in close collaboration with Palantir  and North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust. OPTICA is now one of the case studies held up nationally as an exemplar of the benefits that can be achieved including a 36% reduction in the average number of delay days for patients with a length of stay of 21 days or more.

We have also been fortunate enough to work with Palantir on the NHSE Improving Elective Care Coordination for Patients (IECCP) programme. IECCP supports Trusts to effectively manage their waiting lists and make more efficient use of their operating theatres. This is now live in 36 NHS Trusts, with 24 actively realising benefits, for example, we have seen 13.3 per cent of patients on the waiting list flagged for investigation and potential removal, along with a 6.3 per cent uplift in operating theatre utilisation.

I think it is fair to say that NECS has been somewhat conservative in its approach to private sector partnership over the last ten years.  We are extremely cautious, taking the greatest care to ensure that the would-be partner operates to the same value set as ourselves, has products and services of the highest quality, has a work ethic that we would be proud to be associated with and with whom we enjoy working. We have found all of these features and qualities in Palantir.

I don’t want to miss this opportunity to share some interesting facts about our consortium partner:

  1. Despite being founded in United States, did you know that they have more people working in their London office than in Denver and California combined? The people working with us every day have their own family members treated by the NHS, were born in the NHS and they care passionately about the NHS.
  2. Palantir is a software company, not a data company, who build software which helps customers organise and understand their own information. To the NHS, and all our customers, we are designated by law as a “data processor”, with our customers (in this case NHS England and Trusts) being the “data controllers”. Access to data is dictated entirely by them, including for what purpose, for how long and where it can go (which is not outside the UK).
  3. They work with world-leading healthcare systems such as the Cleveland Clinic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, collaborative research with National Institutes of Health for topics such as global COVID research and cancer research with the National Cancer Institute. To me this shows that Palantir want, and do, help the most important institutions solve their biggest challenges. And to them, and us at NECS, there is no more important institution in the UK than the NHS.

I hope that this insight into NECS’ relationship with Palantir helps explain why we chose to be part of the consortium. I believe they are ideally equipped, in terms of expertise, experience, vision and values, to deliver the benefits of the FDP to the NHS.