8th December Bulletin

It’s been several weeks since our last newsletter, and a few things have happened.

A Good Thing: OpenSAFELY

The GP data analysis environment which is capable of being consensual, safe and transparent – known as OpenSAFELY – has announced that the NHS will continue support for their analytical environment, which does not create any additional copies of the data and which respects patient choices to opt out of data being used in ways they don’t want it to be.

Things of another kind

You may have received some junk mail (with an NHS logo) from a company called Our Future Health which would like to sell access to your DNA and medical history to allow others to find new medicines. We’ll have more on that in the New Year.

Government spending £480m on Palantir

The Department of Health in England announced they will spend £330m on Palantir software and an extra £150m on ‘improving’ Palantir – so it’ll cost more next time – which has proved a little controversial.

Palantir will get one or more copies of all health data used by the national NHS across England, and the Department of Health in England has also bought the software for your local NHS Integrated Care System (ICS), and may impose it on your hospital.  Whether your local hospital or ICS wishes to take up this “offer” from the Department of Health in England is supposedly up to them. Some officials have however said that while using Palantir might not be “mandatory” for other NHS organisations, there are disincentives to spend money on anything else. 

This announcement is a start line, not a finish line. Nothing much changes before March 2024.

The National Data Opt Out exists and works as it always has, although it could always be stronger. The Department of Health in England has not published enough details to know whether patients’ objections will be respected, whether and where it believes your objections don’t apply, and/or whether the Department of Health in England will make everyone opt out again. We have a lot more details here.

As things develop, if you wish to protect your and your family’s medical information, you will likely need to have both an (online) National Data Opt Out and a GP Data Opt out, as your GP data could be used locally in Palantir.

As lawyers continue to pore over the text, if the Department of Health in England does disclose that it has created a new opt out that you have to apply for, we will tell you. To find out, use the box on the right to join our mailing list.

Remember, the announcement of the winner of the contract is the start line for this national data programme. It has to get to March 2024 without collapsing, and there are plenty of precedents for such programmes not managing that.

What you can do

The National Data Opt Out does what it always has. We agree with the Department of Health in England that it could be better – they could do something about that, but they refuse to. 

The Department of Health in England currently only links to the National Data Opt Out, once again neglecting to point out that the GP Data Opt Out exists and works to block secondary uses of your GP data that may be copied into Palantir if it is not applied to your GP record.

Meanwhile, Palantir shareholders want twitter warnings on anything that suggests the opt out works… 

Seasons’ greetings

This is probably our last newsletter before the New Year. We wish you well for the festive season with your loved ones. If you are feeling inclined, medConfidential is always grateful for your support of any kind, and we are grateful that so many of you are on our mailing list. As ever, please do pass this Bulletin on to anyone to whom you think it may be relevant.

Warm wishes,

Phil & Sam