Every hospital trust and integrated care system (ICS) may get its own local instance of the proposed new Federated Data Platform (FDP) that can connect and collaborate with other data platforms, locally and nationally. 

This is the approach described in a paper on technology and innovation in the NHS quoted in minutes from NHS England’s (NHSE) May 18 board meeting.   

The paper stated that all trusts and ICSs will get their own instance of the platform, that could connect and collaborate with each other would make it “easier for health and care organisations to work together to achieve better improvements in care and outcomes for patients than they could each achieve individually.” 

The approach of multiple instances of the FDP platform raised the possibility that local organisations would have to pay for their own instance.  But in a statement to Digital Health News the NHS England press office appeared to rule this out: “Every hospital trust and integrated care system (ICS) will have their own platform instance and this is included as part of the current procurement.”

It added that local trials of individual data platforms have allowed trusts to remove up to 16% of their waiting list through error identification.  

In addition, it said, a discharge pilot helped one trust to reduce the number of patients staying 21 days or more to 12% over 12 months. The national average is currently 20%, report 

The information appears to conflict with an answer to parliamentary questions to the Department of Health, tabled on March 7, that found 11 trusts have paused or suspended pilots of Foundry, the current analytics platform which has so formed the basis of the FDP.  

Foundry is an analytics platform provided by Palantir, the US data analytics giant that is currently believed to be the leading bidder to provide the analytics software the FDP, in a £480m procurement currently underway. 

A media spokesman for NHSE told Digital Health in a written comment that the FDP procurement is designed to help NHS England NHS England “make the most of the information they hold and to work together to understand patterns, solve problems and plan services for their local populations.” 

The government has said most recently that the FDP contract will be worth £480 million for a five years plus an optional two-year extension.  This is already an increase from £240 million when the FDP was first announced in April 2022. The decision to allow some 200 additional individual trusts to be able to connect to the system could mean significantly more in final costs, according to Sam Smith, policy lead at health data privacy group MedConfidential.  

“How does this revelation build public confidence in the Palantir procurement?,” Smith said, in comments to Digital Health. 

The NHSE spokesman said: “NHS England are conducting a fair and transparent procurement in line with Public Contracts Regulations 2015. A preferred supplier will not be selected until the competition has completed.

But Smith said the “Trust” obligations were “not in the public tender, they were not in the public information, and so aren’t in the phase one budget that’s been announced.” He added, “it seems that NHS England will make the budget work by picking Palantir and making the trusts pay for it; a loss leader contract with balloon payments is what got NHS England hooked in the first place.” 

The report also said there are opportunities to connect the existing 14 shared care records in order to enable better availability of clinical information nationwide, a responsibility that would seem to fall under the remit of FDP, although the report didn’t provide additional details. 

The items in the NHS England board paper provide more strands of information about how the FDP might operate.  Data privacy campaigners have been critical of the government’s reluctance to provide more detail about who would have access to the FDP and how patient choice and consent will be protected. 

The FDP is currently out to tender, with the government expected to name a winning bidder by autumn 2023. 

Information about the federated data platform, including what this will mean for trusts and ICSs, is available on the NHS website: https://www.england.nhs.uk/digitaltechnology/digitising-connecting-and-transforming-health-and-care/