We ask Rishi Sunak to hit pause on the Federated Data Platform

Foxglove director Martha Dark paid a visit to Number Ten last week, along with our partners Just Treatment and Clive Lewis MP, to hand in a petition asking the government to pause and kick the tyres of its procurement of the £480m NHS Federated Data Platform.

The Federated Data Platform is the government’s latest plan to create a privately-run central database that will include our NHS health data.

The frontrunner for this huge contract is Palantir, a US spy tech company whose chair, Peter Thiel, has said that British love for the NHS is “Stockholm syndrome”.

Three days before the hand in, we asked Foxglove supporters to help get the number of signatures on the petition up from 12,000 to 15,000. 

Not only did they manage that, the petition was up to nearly 16,000 by the time of the hand in – and has since passed that milestone too!

We are so grateful for our supporters’ help in telling the government they need to urgently hit the brakes on this deal. You can watch Just Treatment’s video about why this petition is important here

That work is starting to pay off. Health Minister Lord Markham recently sent a letter to the House of Commons Health Select Committee, after we asked the committee to investigate some serious problems with the FDP’s procurement. 

Lord Markham committed to “reform of the National Data Opt-Out” (NDOO) and went on to say: “clarifying the application of opt-out within FDP and communicating clearly how the FDP conforms with the NDOO, and reforming patient choice remains a high priority for me and NHS England.”

This is the first proper engagement from government we have seen on reform of the NDOO. At the moment, the NDOO is a blunt instrument and it only allows patients to opt IN to everything, including some uses they may not support or opt OUT of everything, including some uses they would support.

Many of us might baulk at the idea of our data going into the Federated Data Platform when we don’t know who will have access to it, but would still want to share our data for causes that will help other NHS patients get better care. So reform of the NDOO is very good news.

On top of that, another letter was kindly shared with us by Ian Byrne MP (Ian is the MP for Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital which said Palantir’s FDP pilot “didn’t meet our needs”). We understand that of the 36 pilots of Palantir’s Foundry software across the UK, 11 of them failed. That’s a worrying failure rate for a service that’s about to cost the taxpayer almost half a billion pounds.

In that letter, Lord Markham committed to creating a “a legal mechanism for sharing and processing data [that] will be agreed in consultation with NHS England’s Information Governance Team and legal counsel.”

That is another big piece of potential good news. But none of this is good enough. We’ve got to keep fighting to preserve patient choice – and public value – in the use of our NHS data. We need to keep up the pressure.

We will be in touch with Foxglove supporters about how they can be part of this campaign in the coming weeks. If you’re not already a Foxglove subscriber join us here: