Data platform frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions updated 21 November 2023.

View an easy read or accessible content about the federated data platform (FDP).

The Federated Data Platform (FDP) is software that will sit across NHS trusts and integrated care systems allowing them to connect data they already hold in a secure and safe environment. GP data will not be part of the national platform. FDP does not change data controllership arrangements so if there is data sharing agreement between integrate care system (ICS) and GPs locally to share data for care co-ordination then they can use the local version of FDP for that purpose.

The software will be ‘federated’ across the NHS. This means that every hospital and integrated care board will have their own version of the platform which can connect and collaborate with other data platforms as a ‘federation’. This makes it easier for health and care organisations to work together, compare data, analyse it at different geographic, demographic and organisational levels and share and spread new effective digital solutions. 

The federated data platform is not a data collection; it is software that will help to connect disparate sets of data and allow them to be used more effectively for care.

The NHS is made up of multiple organisations that use data every day to manage patient care and plan services. Historically, it has been held in different systems that do not speak to each other, creating burden for staff and delays to patient care. It also makes it difficult to work at scale and share information.

Better use of data brings big benefits for patients by ensuring more joined up care, greater choice and improved health outcomes, and ultimately saving lives.

Feedback from patients has shown that we need to make it easier for staff to access the information they need, freeing up time to invest in delivering the best care possible for patients and facilitating the rollout of innovations taking place across the healthcare system.

The Federated Data Platform will provide software to link these NHS trusts and regional systems and give us a consistent technical means of linking data that is already collected for patient care. Clinicians will easily have access to the information they need to do their job – in one place – freeing up time spent on administrative tasks and enabling them to deliver the most appropriate care for patients. GP data will not be part of the national platform. FDP does not change data controllership arrangements so if there is data sharing agreement between integrated care system (ICS) and GPs locally to share data for care co-ordination then they can use the local version of FDP for that purpose.

We are procuring a combination of technology and services to connect and protect data enabling innovation to be scaled across the NHS.

NHS England is conducting a fair, open and transparent procurement in line with Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

We are using the Competitive Dialogue Process, detailed in Public Contracts Regulations 2015. ​

There is no “front runner”. This process is open for any supplier(s) to participate subject to passing the standard selection criteria and minimum requirements. ​

All bids are evaluated against the same objective evaluation criteria and scoring methodology that has been shared with all suppliers. The evaluation criteria has been developed to mitigate against incumbent advantage. ​

Independent evaluators have been selected from across the NHS and have a range of skills and experience relevant to the question they are evaluating.

The procurement documentation clearly define the FDP-AS requirements and project scope, which is agnostic to any existing solution.

The FDP-AS scope is for cloud-delivered data analytics software and associated services – NHS England retains budget control over when and what it pays for.​

The value of the procurement has not changed. The Public Contract Regulations require a maximum value of any contract that is advertised, which is up to an estimated £480m over 7 years, this funding is expected to provide funding for up to 240 NHS organisations (Trusts and ICSs) – this equates to a cost of c £300K per NHS Organisations per year for 7 years.

FDP-AS is not a ‘like for like’ replacement of the contract that NHS England currently has with Palantir for the provision of Foundry. ​

We have deliberately reassessed our data analytics requirements over those that emerged during the pandemic and have not stipulated the solution to deliver these requirements. Any supplier can respond with their solution. ​

The requirements have been designed the FDP-AS requirements without input from the incumbent supplier.
The FDP-AS requirements are to utilise open standards and aligned to the UK gov Technology Code of Practice.
Vendor lock-in is a risk with any technology procurement, particularly for cloud-based/SaaS services​.

The commercial structure NHS England has chosen preserves competition in key areas of the requirement and provides NHS England rights to ensure data offload and other exit obligations are enabled by the FDP supplier.​

Open standards will mitigate against bespoke integrations with other NHS systems and will support the exit and transition provisions.

The Marketplace solution-exchange capability will enable publishing and reuse of code and applications across the FDP landscape.

FDP will enable frictionless Data and Code sharing across tenants that adheres to all security and privacy constructs by implementing a canonical data model, a common policy-based access control mechanism and configurable deployment pipelines.

All potential suppliers will be treated equally

The procurement rules and measures that we have chosen mitigate against unfair incumbent advantage. ​

NHS England has a duty to treat all suppliers the same regardless of the public perception of any organisation, or the opinions held by any of their shareholders. ​

NHS England cannot exclude any supplier that is lawfully established and able to bid from participating in the procurement. ​

We are confident that our procurement process does not enable any supplier that does not meet our strict standard selection criteria (which includes e.g. mandatory and discretionary exclusions relating to illegal activity, social and environmental breaches) and robust Information Governance requirements to continue through the process.

There are 4 planned procurements, that will drive a competitive, innovative market for each distinct area:

  • Procurement 1: Federated Data Platform and Associated Services (The core platform), with ICS integration: to design, support, and enable a shared workspace through which NHS organisations can be connected, so that FDP users can have access to applications to support planning, direct care, population health management or research, whilst supporting each NHS organisation’s information governance responsibilities.​
  • Procurement 2: Privacy-enhancing technology (PET) – this is an essential part of making the federated data platform operational, however FDP will be one of many ways that the PET is used. This procurement is buying PET capability for the NHS.
  • Procurement 3: Marketplace – allowing the development of a ‘market’ for applications from multiple suppliers – accelerating development and adoption of best-in-class operational tools across the NHS, and thereby reducing duplication in development effort across suppliers.​ Operational tools that enable marketplace application release and management: to monitor and optimise the marketplace platform to meet the changing demands of the service.
  • Procurement 4: Product Development and Supporting Services (previously referred to as Training, deployment support, and implementation) – providing a comprehensive support model and service wrapper.

This approach has been developed with external procurement specialists and scrutinised and approved following a red team review with No.10.

For procurement 1 we are using ‘Competitive Dialogue’ as this is an open procedure that allows NHS England to engage in dialogue with the market to support the best possible solution being developed. It allows us to incorporate a proof-of-concept stage which will allow NHS England to test the deliverability of the proposed solutions.

Procurement updates are regularly published on the NHS England website.

NHS organisations hold different types of data:

  • operational information like the number of beds in a trust and what percentage are occupied, as well as aggregate data, such as a count of the total number of patients in a hospital or de-identified individual-level data, which is data about an individual which can’t identify that person. This information is often held in multiple clinical IT systems.
  • confidential information that identifies a patient, including information about their medical condition or treatment.

The Federated Data Platform (FDP) will allow NHS organisations to access both these types of data, where lawfully appropriate, and combine it with other data to analyse multiple data sources in one place.

The new software will use data that the NHS already collects and uses. It will securely bring together information from hospital health records, waiting lists, and theatre and staff rosters to better manage patient care.

The FDP will only allow access to patient data for people who need to see it as part of their role in the NHS. As happens currently, there will be clear rules on who can access, what they can see, and what they can do.

The supplier of a federated data platform will only operate under the instruction of the NHS when processing data on the platform. The supplier will not control the data in the platform, nor will they permitted to access, use or share it for their own purposes. Their contract will make strict stipulations about confidentiality, and there will be governance in place to monitor delivery and usage of the FDP.

Only authorised users will be granted access to data for approved purposes, for example, NHS staff and those supporting them, such as administrators, bed managers or care coordinators, and staff in social care supporting the move from hospital care.

No new data will be collected as part of the Federated Data Platform. Existing data will be accessible when needed by approved individuals.

Every trust and integrated care board will have their own platform, with the capability to connect and share information between them where this is helpful. This could include the number of beds in a hospital, the size of waiting lists for elective care services, staff rosters, or the availability of medical supplies.

The Federated Data Platform will initially be focused on supporting 5 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.

The Federated Data Platform (FDP) will improve patient care by bringing together the information needed to plan and deliver care and reduce administrative burden on staff.

Pilot sites have seen list sizes reduce and waiting times fall, meaning patients are treated faster. Additionally, discharge delays have reduced, enabling patients to leave hospital and get home sooner, and people are having to wait less time to receive a diagnosis.

For example, Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust has used new software in its gynaecology department to track patients with suspected cancer through to diagnosis and first treatment, which has reduced the waiting time for a first appointment by an average of two days and cut the overall time to diagnosis. That means two days less that patients spent worrying and waiting to find out what the next steps in their treatment will be.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is using software to monitor all admitted patients and assess any potential barriers to discharge. The system has freed up almost 10 hours of clinician time each week and resulted in patients going home faster, with long stays (over 21 days) falling by more than a third (36%).

National rollout of the Federated Data Platform will enable patients and clinicians across the country to benefit from these advances.

The FDP will:

  • connect teams and organisations who need to work together to provide patient care
  • help local teams better prioritise waiting lists, manage theatre capacity and identify their staffing needs
  • help local health and care teams to understand the health of the people in their community, and what preventions and services might support those people
  • make it easier to see where critical supplies are, how much is available, and where there are shortages
  • reduce the reporting burden on frontline staff.

An elderly patient has been in hospital but is now medically well enough to leave. However, their discharge is being delayed because a bed in a care home hasn’t been found and staff are spending a lot of time calling different care homes to try and find a space.

The Federated Data Platform (FDP) will enable staff to quickly see if and where there is an available bed in a care home within the patient’s local community, or if there is an alternative option available, such as a space on a virtual ward. The clinician will be able to speak through the options with the patient and together they can decide on the preferred course of action.

Not only will the use of FDP have freed up clinical time, with staff no longer having to ring round different care homes, but the patient is more involved in the decision about their care and is able to be discharged more quickly into the appropriate location.

This also means that a bed is freed up for an incoming patient who needs to be cared for in an acute setting, as it is no longer occupied by someone who is medically well enough to be discharged.

Case studies from our pilots are published on NHS England’s website.

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.

No further uses will be allowed without further engagement with public, patient and stakeholder assurance and advisory groups.

Any additional use must be supported by clear legal reasoning and accompanying Data Protection Impact Assessment, which is a legal requirement under the UKGDPR Article 35 to help identify and minimise any data protection risks.

No new data will be collected. Existing data will be used for analysing activity, auditing quality, planning service delivery, and service analysis to improve patient outcomes.

For example, Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust has used new software in its gynaecology department to track patients with suspected cancer through to diagnosis and first treatment, which has reduced the waiting time for a first appointment by an average of two days and cut the overall time to diagnosis. That’s two days less that patients spent worrying and waiting to find out what the next steps in their treatment will be.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is using software to monitor all admitted patients and assess any potential barriers to discharge. The system has freed up almost 10 hours of clinician time each week and resulted in patients going home faster, with long stays (over 21 days) falling by more than a third (36%).

The software will be more secure than anything that is currently used in the NHS thanks to new privacy enhancing technology (NHS-PET), which will provide robust protection and a standard approach to support safe data access and use.

The NHS-PET has been procured from a different supplier to the supplier of the FDP, and the FDP will not go live until the PET is fully in place.

The supplier of a federated data platform will only operate under the instruction of the NHS when processing data on the platform. The supplier will not control the data in the platform, nor will they permitted to access, use or share it for their own purposes. Their contract will make strict stipulations about confidentiality, and there will be governance in place to monitor delivery and usage of the FDP.

There are already many suppliers of IT services working for the NHS who handle confidential patient information. The tender documentation is clear that bidders to provide the FDP must be experts in protecting data and adopting rigorous protocols for secure operating practices.

All uses of data within federated data platforms must be ethical, for the public good, and comply with all existing law. This includes the UK General Data Protection Regulation, the Data Protection Act 2018, and the Common Law Duty of Confidentiality.

There is no specific patient opt out from data being shared into the FDP, as FDP is IT software bringing existing patient data together from a wide range of existing clinical IT systems to process it for the same purposes as it is currently being processed. This allows clinicians to plan and deliver care more efficiently to improve patient care.

The FDP will not initially be used to process identifiable data for purposes other than the individual care of patients. The national data opt out does not therefore apply.

No further uses will be allowed without further engagement with public, patient and stakeholder assurance and advisory groups.

Any additional use must be supported by a clear legal basis and a data protection impact assessment, which is a legal requirement under the UK GDPR.

Anyone wishing to find out more about data use and the NHS can visit Powerful moments, powered by NHS data, and read further information about keeping data safe. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is also undertaking a national public engagement exercise on the use of health data, as part of the DHSC’s Data Strategy, Data Saves Lives.

If, in the future, FDP is used for a purpose where the national data opt out does apply, then it will always be respected. This means that the records of patients who have registered a national data opt out will not be processed in the FDP for these purposes.

Where data is currently used for purposes other than the individual care of patients, for example, to plan NHS services, de-identified data is almost always used. Where de-identified data cannot be used for these purposes, patients have the right to opt out of their identifiable data being used in certain circumstances, through registering a national data opt out.

There is no specific patient opt out from information being accessed via FDP. This is because the FDP is IT software bringing existing patient data together from a wide range of existing clinical IT systems to process it for the same purposes as it is currently being processed. This ensures that NHS staff providing care have the information they need, about patients for their individual care, to allow staff to plan and deliver care more efficiently to improve patient care. The new FDP IT software will be routinely used by NHS staff to provide all of their patients with individual care.

When information is shared for the purposes of providing individual care, NHS staff will ensure that the information is relevant and appropriate as they have to balance sharing of patient information with their duty to protect patient confidentiality.

As is the case now, where patients have asked a health care professional not to share certain confidential information about them, including with other members of the care team, for the purposes of their individual care, and this request has been agreed by the healthcare professional, this information will not be shared. Not sharing information might impact on providing patients with safe care.

Learn more about how healthcare professionals use and share patient data.

The FDP will only allow access to patient data for people who need to see it as part of their role in the NHS. Secure data environments, which are secure ways of handling data, allow organisations to control who can access their data, what specific data people can access, and what people can do with this data.

For example, a doctor will be able to see the clinical details of their own patients, but not those of another doctor’s patients. Similarly, someone in a non-clinical role will not be able to see any clinical patient information.

GP data will not be part of the national platform. FDP does not change data controllership arrangements so if there is data sharing agreement between integrated care system (ICS) and GPs locally to share data for care co-ordination then they can use the local version of FDP for that purpose.

No. NHS England works closely with the National Cyber Security Centre to ensure that all information is protected from the threat of a cyber-attack. All data will be accessed in line with the Office for National Statistics’ Five Data Safes.

Key lessons have been learned from previous data programmes including the need for a) transparency and b) data to be held in secure environments with the correct checks and balances in place. We are ensuring that trust and transparency lessons have been learnt both in terms of design, but also in how we act, for example the timely publication of information and documentation, open publication of use cases and Data Protection Impact Assessments.

An ambient data campaign, featuring real-life case studies, is helping to build public awareness about how NHS data is currently used. This is laying down an essential foundation level of awareness, from which we can start to have more detailed conversations about data, without triggering public concern.

Palantir provides NHS England with data management platform services (Foundry) which were procured to provide the national organisations responsible for coordinating the response to COVID-19 with secure, reliable and timely data – in a way that protects the privacy of our citizens – in order to make informed, effective decisions.

We learned huge lessons through our COVID-19 response and started to use data to work smarter – to anticipate the virus, protect the most vulnerable, put resources where they were needed and deliver the largest vaccination programme in NHS history. Such an efficient and effective response was only possible because of investment in digital systems. The opportunity now is to apply what we have learned to both managing our elective recovery and our long-term challenges.

The investment in a federated data platform will provide local health and care organisations with a technical architecture that enables them to make the most of the information they hold to transform care and improve outcomes for patients.

NHS England has recently awarded a 12 month transition contract to Palantir to support the successful transition from the current Palantir Foundry platform to the new Federated Data Platform and Associated Services (FDP-AS) supplier. The Foundry platform was used during Covid-19 pandemic to support reporting and vaccination programmes, more recently it has also been used to test the viability of a number pilots for FDP.

This is to provide the safe and smooth transition and exit service of critical products that were developed to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic (for Covid-19 and elective recovery purposes), to alternative provisions, including the transition of products to the new FDP-AS supplier following completion of the procurement process and contract award.

NHS England works in close collaboration with trusts and tailors the approach based on the needs and operational pressures of each. This means the implementation of pilot programmes, such as the Improving Elective Care Coordination for Patients programme and Dynamic Discharges programme, can be scaled-up or down, and adjusted as needed. In a small number of cases, it has been necessary to pause the progression of pilot activity – this represents a responsiveness to the priorities of individual trusts. This should not be interpreted as the pilots having failed.

Throughout the deployment of our pilots, NHS England will continue to adapt to support varying Trust needs, react and respond to changing demands, and be flexible in our approach. This will help us to develop a better understanding about the conditions required for success; this is helping to shape the planning for the roll-out of the FDP.

In March 2023, a parliamentary question was received asking how many pilots were paused – the reported sites are listed in Table 1 and 2 below. Table 1 shows the trusts who are now actively participating in pilots. Table 2 has been updated to show the current position of the others – reported as of 27 October 2023.

Table 1

Trust name Status update since March 2023
Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Actively participating in IECCP programme

Restarted programme delivery for Dynamic Discharges programme

London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust Actively participating in IECCP programme

Restarted programme delivery for Dynamic Discharges programme

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Actively participating in IECCP programme

Restarted programme delivery for Dynamic Discharges programme

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust Actively participating in IECCP programme

For Dynamic Discharges programme, a Memorandum of Understanding was not signed, and the pilot didn’t officially commence

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust Actively participating in IECCP programme

For Dynamic Discharges programme, a Memorandum of Understanding was not signed, and the pilot didn’t officially commence

Table 2

Trust name Reason for pause as of March 2023 Current status
Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Trust chose to address internal process change before participating in a digital transformation programme, such as the IECCP Programme. No change
University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Foundation Trust Trust chose to address internal process change before participating in a digital transformation programme, such as the IECCP Programme. No change
Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital Following discussions, it was agreed that given the specialist nature of this Trust, the pilot products of the IECCP programme were not designed to address the Trust’s particular challenges. No change
University Hospital Plymouth NHS Trust The Trust made the decision not to participate in the IECCP programme based on other priorities for Trust resources . No change
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust Trust chose to address internal process change before participating in a digital transformation programme, such as the IECCP Programme. They would like to remain updated on the programme and potentially re-engage in the future. No change
University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust For Dynamic Discharges programme, a Memorandum of Understanding was not signed, and the pilot didn’t officially commence.

This trust has not been part of the IECCP programme to date.

No change

Table 3 shows additional sites that have left pilot programmes. Information is correct as of 27 October 2023.

Table 3

Trust name Reason for pause
St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust The Trust made the decision to stop actively participating in the IECCP programme due to other priorities for Trust resources.

It’s important to note that this position will continue to evolve as our engagement with sites continues.

Under General Data Protection Regulation, everyone can ask for a “subject access request”. This is a request for information that an organisation holds about you. Read more information about your right of access.

Data Protection is enforced via the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation. If an organisation doesn’t comply, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) may need to take action against the company.

The ICO has a range of enforcement powers that it can use where appropriate. It can issue monetary penalties of up to a maximum of £17.5 million – or 4% of the total annual worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, whichever is higher – in the most serious cases. Read more information on possible penalties.

Patients can have confidence that data in the Federated Data Platform will always remain in the full control and protection of the NHS and patient data cannot be accessed by the company making the software.

The Federated Data Platform will be used to connect existing data to help local health teams better prioritise waiting lists, manage theatre capacity and identify their staffing needs.

The NHS will not give access to confidential patient data for marketing or insurance purposes.

You can ask further questions about the Federated Data Platform, leave feedback about any aspect of it, or register to take part in future FDP engagement activity via the engagement portal.