Dr Indra Joshi, NHS’s former head of artificial intelligence, and Harjeet Dhalival, a deputy director of data services at NHS England/Improvement, have left the NHS to join Palantir, the US tech company, that is currently working closely with the NHS on the development of a Covid-19 data store.

Dr Joshi and Ms Dhalival’s move from the NHS to Palantir also comes just after the announcement of a contract by the NHSE for a “federated data platform” to deliver “transformational improvements across the NHS”. The five year contract due to be awarded this summer and go live in November is estimated to be worth over £240m. The platform will provide data for population health management, care coordination, elective recovery, vaccinations, and supply chain.

Both Bloomberg and Digital Health have reported that Palantir is widely understood to be the front-runner for the contract. Palantir has worked closely with NHS England on provision of a national NHS data platform throughout the pandemic, as part of a contract thought to be worth £23m, awarded in December 2020 to run until December 2022.

Dr Joshi worked as NHSX director of AI from 2019 and oversaw the running of the NHS’s AI Lab, which awarded large contracts for AI-driven technology across the NHS. She left NHSE at the end of March 2022, when NHSX was combined with NHSE.

Ms Dhalival held senior roles in NHSE’s data division for more than four years, including head of data services from April 2018 to October 2019. 

Palantir was co-founded by Peter Thiel, who worked as a technology adviser to Donald Trump, when he was president. The company works a lot for the defence industry and has at times been supported by the CIA, and has been used by US intelligence.

The company’s involvement with the NHS has been criticised by privacy campaigners amid concerns over patients’ data being at risk of being shared with private companies. The December 2020 contract with Palantir prompted a lawsuit from Foxglove Legal and openDemocracy. 

There was some dispute over the outcome of the case in March 2021, with Foxglove and openDemocracy claiming the government “conceded” it would not offer Palantir a long-term role in the NHS without public consultation after receiving legal filings from the organisations. But the government denied “conceding” the case and said it had had to be dropped as it had no legal basis.

Both Dr Joshi and Ms Dhalival will be bound by certain contract terms for six months after leaving the NHS, including not being able to lobby the NHS or the recruitment of old colleagues. 

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