Palantir has moved to further cement its place in the UK health sector by appointing a managing director for the country.

Dr Justin Whatling joins the global tech firm from US health IT supplier Cerner. His main role will be to provide guidance to Palantir’s health and life sciences clients, including NHS England.

He will continue his role as a visiting professor in health informatics in University College London’s Institute of Digital Health, as well as his professionalism support for the Faculty of Clinical Informatics and the BMJ Health & Care Informatics journal.

NHS England, and a number of NHS trusts across the UK, use Palantir’s Foundry data integration platform. The platform underpins the NHS Covid-19 Data Store, set up to manage multiple sources of data to help the government respond to the pandemic.

Dr Whatling was previously vice president of population health at Cerner, specialising in population health management and clinical transformation in Europe. He is also a former chair of BCS Health and Care.

Speaking about his appointment he said he was “tremendously excited” to be joining Palantir at a pivotal time for “digitally-enabled, data-led healthcare”.

“Work on population health and more recently, to support the national Covid-19 response, has proved that using data to identify opportunities for care improvement is necessary but not sufficient for the changes that we will face – there is an urgent need to fundamentally re-design care and optimise the resources for patients and communities at large,” Dr Whatling said.

“Palantir has demonstrated a unique ability to support improved clinical and health experiences. Here in the UK, its Foundry platform has underpinned the supply-demand management of PPE and Covid vaccinations for the NHS.”

Louis Mosley, head of Palantir in the UK, said Dr Whatling’s appointment “bolsters” the tech conglomerate’s expertise to “further support the NHS in the months and years ahead”.

Concerns around transparency

The government has faced concerns and criticism over its use of data during the pandemic, particularly focused on contracts with big tech firms including Palantir. Privacy experts, patient groups and campaigners have flagged a lack of transparency on contracts and private companies access to data.

The government has recently committed not to extend Palantir’s £23m contract beyond Covid-19 uses without consulting the public following a threatened judicial review from tech justice firm Foxglove Legal.

It came after the tech giant was able to secure the multi-million pound contract without a public consultation – it was awarded under the Crown Commercial Services G-Cloud 11 Framework, which does not require a tender to be published.

Palantir was contracted in March 2020 to help develop the NHS Covid-19 Data Store for a fee of £1. The contract was due to expire in June but was extended for four months at a cost of £1million. NHS England later revealed it was seeking a supplier to continue work on the store, with Palantir awarded a £23m two-year contract to continue its work on the Data Store in December 2020.

More information on Palantir’s involvement with the NHS Covid-19 Data Store can be found here