UK

Workers protest against NHS contract with firm linked to Israeli military

Hundreds of NHS staff protested outside the NHS England HQ in central London on Wednesday.

NHS staff blockade the entrance to NHS England’s headquarters in central London
NHS staff blockade the entrance to NHS England’s headquarters in central London NHS staff blockade the entrance to NHS England’s headquarters in central London (Victoria Jones/PA)

Healthcare workers have blockaded the entrance to NHS England’s headquarters to call for an end to its contract with a firm which campaigners say supplies technology to Israel’s military.

Palantir is an American software company that was awarded a £330 million contract by the NHS last year to create a new data system, the federated data platform (FDP).

Hundreds of NHS workers protested outside the NHS England HQ in central London on Wednesday morning, holding placards which read “No Palantir in the NHS” and “Palantir aids apartheid”.

Harriet, an NHS accident-and-emergency doctor and British Medical Association member, who did not give her surname, said she did not want the company having access to NHS data.

“Palantir is not only vocally supportive of genocide, and many other atrocities in the past, but they supply AI military tech to the Israeli army,” she said.

“We feel responsible to stop this deal from going through. This contract is worth £330 million which could actually be spent on NHS services that we need, not yet another failed private enterprise.”

The FDP will aim to make it easier for health and care organisations to work together to provide better services for patients.

However, concerns have been raised about how patient data will be used, as well as Palantir’s strategic partnership with the Israeli Defence Forces to supply the country with technology for its military efforts.

Protesters chanted “every time the UK lies, a neighbourhood in Gaza dies” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine is almost free” during Wednesday’s protest.

Hope, who withheld her surname, is the head of digital impact at Just Treatment, a campaign group which has called for a fully-funded, publicly owned and operated NHS.

She said NHS patients do not trust Palantir and that her organisation supported calls for the cancellation of the contract.

Protesters blockade the entrance to NHS England
Protesters blockade the entrance to NHS England Protesters blockade the entrance to NHS England (Victoria Jones/PA)

“We do not believe that there should be a role for profit-making companies in our public health service, and certainly not companies that are profiting from death and destruction and war, which is what Palantir is,” she said.

“So, we’re here today to say that we are deeply alarmed by the catastrophic threat to the right to health and the right to life in Gaza as a result of Israel’s military attacks. We’re here to say – as we have been saying for over a year now – that we don’t want Palantir in the NHS.

“The patients we work with do not trust Palantir and they are deeply alarmed by the way that the Government has lined up this contract without giving patients any kind of say in it whatsoever.”

Louis Mosley, Palantir’s executive vice-president for the UK and Europe, previously defended the company’s involvement in the NHS.

“Data security and the ability to precisely control who can see what information can be a matter of life and death,” he told the Times in November.

He said the “software enables NHS professionals to bring together data that a hospital already holds in multiple different systems that haven’t historically been able to talk to each other, while ensuring that staff only see information if they need to, in order to do their job”.

Palantir was co-founded by billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who was an early backer of former US president Donald Trump, and has worked with the US government.

The PA news agency has contacted Palantir and NHS England for comment.