NHS Uses Tech Giants to Plan Crisis Response

Data collected via the NHS’s 111 telephone service is to be mixed with other sources to help predict where ventilators, hospital beds, and medical staff will be most in need.

The goal is to help health chiefs model the consequences of moving resources to best tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Three US tech firms are aiding the effort – Amazon, Microsoft and Palantir – as well as London-based Faculty AI. The plan is expected to be signed off by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“Every hospital is going to be thinking: Have we got enough ventilators? Well we need to keep ours because who knows what’s going to happen – and that might not be the optimal allocation of ventilators,” explained a source in one of the tech companies involved.

“Without a holistic understanding of how many we’ve got, where they are, who can use them, who is trained, where do we actually have patients who need them most urgently, we risk not making the optimal decisions.”

The project is likely to give rise to privacy concerns. However, the NHS intends to make sure that all the data involved has been anonymised so that personal details cannot be tied back to any individual. And once the crisis is over, it is committed to destroying all the records.

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