New NHS software to improve care for millions of patients

The NHS will roll out new software from spring next year to deliver better joined-up care for millions of patients, help tackle waiting lists and reduce hospital discharge delays.

The software will bring together existing NHS data, making it easier for staff to access key information to provide improved and more timely patient care.

The new tool, known as the Federated Data Platform, will join up key information currently held in separate NHS systems to tackle some of the big challenges the health service faces coming out of the pandemic.

By bringing together real time data, such as the number of beds in a hospital, the size of elective waiting lists, staff rosters, the availability of medical supplies and social care places, staff can plan and maximise resources such as operating theatre and outpatient clinic time to ensure patients receive more timely care.

Following an open and competitive tender process, the contract to provide the software has been awarded to a group led by Palantir Technologies UK, with support from Accenture, PwC, NECS and Carnall Farrar.

The contract award will see investment over the course of seven years as more trusts join the platform. In the first contract year, investment is expected to be at least £25.6m. Over the contractual period of seven years, there will be up to £330m investment in the Federated Data Platform and associated services.

No company involved in the Federated Data Platform can access health and care data without the explicit permission of the NHS. All data within the platform is under the control of the NHS and will only be used for direct care and planning. It will not be used to access data for research purposes and GP data will not feed into the national version of the software platform.

Pilot projects using the new data-sharing approach have seen a drop in waiting times for planned care and in discharge delays, and seen faster diagnosis and treatment times. Since introducing the system, North Tees and Hartlepool Trust has reduced long term stays (21 days or more) by 36% despite increased demand, with 7.7% more patients being admitted to the hospital.

NHS National Director for Transformation Dr Vin Diwakar said: “Better use of data is essential for the NHS to tackle waiting times, join up patient care and make the health service sustainable for the future. Patients come to the NHS at some of the most vulnerable points in their lives, and they want to know that our healthcare teams have access to the best possible information when it comes to their treatment and care.

“This new tool provides a safe and secure environment to bring together data, which enables us to develop and deliver more responsive services for patients and will help the health service drive the recovery in elective care.”

Following the award of the contract for the federated data platform this week, there will be a six-month implementation period where products supported by the current platform will be transitioned across.

Every hospital trust and local health system will have their own version of the software, which enables them to connect and share information between them, for example as they discharge a patient from hospital into a care setting.

It will help trusts, regions and local care systems to apply the lessons learned from the vaccination campaign to deliver faster, more informed and joined up patient care and will also help the NHS tackle long-term challenges like preventing ill-health and reducing hospital stays.

The new Federated Data Platform builds on the success of the current National Data Platform, for which the contract is about to come to an end. Rigorous interrogation of local data during the pandemic allowed the health service to better anticipate the virus, identify and protect the most vulnerable, and put resources where they were needed, and then to deliver the largest and the most precise vaccination programme in NHS history.

Palantir CEO Alex Karp said: “This award is the culmination of 20 years of developing software that enables complex, sensitive data to be integrated in a way that protects security, respects privacy and puts the customer in full control.

“There is no more important institution in the UK than the NHS and we are humbled to have now been chosen to provide that software across England to help bring down waiting lists, improve patient care and reduce health inequalities.

“It builds on our role supporting the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine and, more recently, helping individual NHS Trusts to schedule more operations.”

The Federated Data Platform will also be the first use case in the NHS of Privacy Enhancing Technology (NHS-PET), a nationally assured and funded privacy tool to benefit all NHS organisations.

NHS-PET will ensure that the NHS can meet the highest technical standards of security for managing patient data, supported by robust information governance and data protection processes.

The procurement for NHS-PET has been run separately from the Federated Data Platform and the suppliers are deliberately different. NHS-PET will be an independent service ensuring that treatment of data is separate from the storage of data, to safeguard data and ensure that it is always kept safe and secure.

IQVIA has been announced as the winning bidder for the NHS’s Privacy Enhancing Technology (NHS-PET) contract, in a three-year deal with options to extend.

Alistair Grenfell, President Europe, Middle East, Africa and South Asia & Global Head of Public Health at IQVIA said: “We are thrilled to announce our collaboration with NHS England, where we will be applying our industry leading privacy analytics solution. Through our globally recognized technology and expertise, we aim to ensure the protection of NHS data. IQVIA has a proven track record in governing and protecting patient information while providing transparency in its use.”

In Dorset, trusts have used the Federated Data Platform to enable capacity for an additional 2,500 surgical treatments per year. They are now booking patients in for appointments further in advance than they ever have before, with cancellation rates falling as a result.

And in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, trailing data-sharing has been critical for the team to see and treat cancer patients sooner as they tackle the backlog.

Jeffrey Ahmed, Consultant Gynaecologist Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgeon at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where data-sharing has been piloted, said: “We have already seen measurable positive impact that helped our team to maximise our resources for the benefit of patients”.

Separate to any particular supplier, a range of health and care organisations have shared public statements of support for the principles behind the Federated Data Platform including more joined up patient care and improved staff experience, and all 42 integrated care boards across England have backed the platform.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Health leaders will welcome the introduction of the Federated Data Platform as an important tool to help organisations across the NHS more rapidly connect and access data, free up vital clinical time and deliver more efficient, faster and safe care for patients.

“For the platform to succeed, it will also be crucial that the public continue to be engaged with, and that any concerns they have on the sharing of their data are addressed meaningfully. Likewise, Government and the wider NHS will need to ensure that there are adequate numbers of staff working in digital and patient data roles.

“We hope the new platform will offer much needed capacity for many Integrated Care Systems and for those systems that have already built their own effective platforms, we welcome both the assurance that they will be able to decide if and when to opt into it, and that they will continue to be supported.”

Jacob Lant, Chief Executive at National Voices said:

“Modernising the way data moves around the NHS has the potential to rapidly improve both patient experiences and the overall efficiency of the service. And engagement with the public over the last decade has shown that people are on board with this idea as long as it is done safely, transparently and with clear concrete promises over who will and won’t have access to their medical records.

“The Federated Data Platform will be an important tool in achieving this digital revolution. That’s why National Voices, alongside other patient groups and data experts, has been working with NHS England to make sure they understand people’s questions and concerns. NHS colleagues have responded with important clarifications such as confirming the independently developed Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET) will be in place before any data begins to flow through the FDP, and providing assurances that the supplier will only ever access to operational data when approved and strictly supervised by the NHS.

“Crucially, the conversation doesn’t stop here. I have been asked to chair the independent Check and Challenge group to continue to help NHS England understand and respond to the questions and comments coming in through the new information portal, and to help create a culture of ongoing public engagement around how the NHS makes the best and fair use of data to transform care.”

Dr Jeanette Dickson, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: “We saw first-hand over the pandemic that the effective use of data driven healthcare can transform the way we deliver patient care and improve clinical efficiency. The Academy has long identified the importance of using data and technology better, to boost clinical capacity and improve patient care.

“This is why the development of a federated data platform for the NHS is very welcome, provided it handles data in the promised safe and secure manner.  Clinically led pilots suggest we have much to gain by fully embracing the platform’s potential to help link data better for elective recovery and care coordination.

“So with the proper checks and balances in place, we see no reason why not to press ahead with this exciting development.”

Notes for editors:

  • As part of this engagement, we are setting up a Check and Challenge Group made up of stakeholders like National Voices, the Patients Association and the National Data Guardian to advise the FDP programme and to ensure engagement with patients and clinical voices.
  • The FDP will initially be focused on supporting the five key NHS priorities.
  1. Elective recovery – to address the backlog of people waiting for appointments or treatments.
  2. Care coordination – to enable the effective coordination of care between local health and care organisations and services, reducing the number of long stays in hospital.
  3. Vaccination and immunisation – to continue to support the vaccination and immunisation of vulnerable people while ensuring fair and equal access and uptake across different communities.
  4. Population health management – to help integrated care systems proactively plan services that meet the needs of their population.
  5. Supply chain management – to help the NHS put resources where they are needed most and buy smarter so that we get the best value for money.

GP data will not be part of the national platform.

  • The FDP contract terms expressly forbids use of patient data for commercial gain. The FDP supplier is paid for its services but has no right to use patient data except as required by NHS controllers to provide services.