The medical directors of NHS trusts running Federated Data Platform pilots have been asked to sign an open letter of support to patients and the public for the FDP initiative just ahead of the expected award of the £480m contract. 

Digital Health News understands that in a parallel exercise NHS chief executives of trusts involved in FDP are also being asked to lend their names to publicly support the controversial data initiative.   

The move to gain public endorsements comes with an expected announcement on the award of the £480m contract for FDP thought to be imminent, and NHS England promising to step up communications following contract award. 

Last week shares in Palantir rose following a Bloomberg news report that the company is close to being announced as winner of the contract. The US analytics company with close ties to US national security is the incumbent supplier and has been considered the front-runner throughout the procurement. The company is bidding in partnership with Accenture.

The request to medical directors to sign an open letter was sent by Vin Diwaker, acting transformation director at NHS England, to medical directors of trusts who are running federated data platform pilots, seen by Digital Health News. 

The NHS FDP pilots cover Optimised Patient Tracking & Intelligent Choices Application (OPTICA) and Improving Elective Care Coordination for Patients (IECCP).   

“I’m reaching out to ask for your support as the medical directors of Trusts who are running federated data platform pilots,” Dr Diwaker said in a covering email. 

His email continued: “To build trust and gain the confidence of key stakeholders and the public, it is imperative that we can demonstrate that there is clinical support for a federated data platform and that it will help improve services for patients.” 

Each of the medical directors are asked to sign the open letter which reiterates key messages from NHSE on benefits, trust, data security and data ownership remaining with the NHS. The letter also promises communications engagement with the public following the award of the FDP contract. 

“We recognise some people may have reservations about the FDP, and we encourage  an open conversation to address these concerns. Those who access patient data daily know this is an exercise in trust,” states the open letter medical directors are being asked to sign. 

“As clinicians, we take it [trust] extremely seriously. The Federated Data Platform is categorically not about collecting new data and is instead about using what we already have better.  The platform incorporates robust, world-leadingdata security measures, including purpose-based access controls and an extensive audit trail for accountability.” 

The text continues: “Privacy-enhancing technology and data minimisation principles are also integral to the platform’s design, aligning with our data security and privacy commitment.”  

The letter stresses that data will remain under the control of the NHS, and argues FDP is no different to other software systems used by the NHS: “The use of the data in the FDP will always remain under the full control of the NHS, and therefore under the stringent legal frameworks in place in the UK.  

“Just like the many other software systems the NHS uses every day, any chosen software provider will not hold or have access to NHS data for their own purposes, and just as now your data will never be provided to third parties for anything other than those things you consent to.”  

The open letter cites North Tees and Hartlepool Trust as having used FDP to reduce long term stays by 36%; and trusts in Dorset as having used the tool to improve flow and create capacity for an additional 2,500 surgical treatments per year. Signatories are asked to each provide a further example.

Last month, Diwakar stressed in a keynote speech at HETT 2023 that we must see the positives and not make the FDP something that it’s not.