NHS plans £35m patient-privacy tech platform

System will be used nationwide to offer a standardised approach to the use of sensitive data

Credit: Arek Socha/Pixabay

The NHS has revealed plans for a multimillion-pound new technology platform intended to ensure a standardised level of privacy and security of patient data across the health service.

NHS England has published a procurement notice seeking a commercial partner for the delivery of a new national system dubbed NHS Privacy Enhancing Technology (NHS-PET). The aim of creating the platform is to “provide robust protection and deliver a standard approach to support safe data use including data privacy treatments and ensuring appropriate data access” to sensitive patient information, wherever it is stored and processed.

The data-protection system will operate as “a standalone service that potentially includes cloud-based software-as-a-service solutions to provide data privacy and protection” to various data stores in use across the health service.

Its first deployment will be to support the operations of the new NHS Federated Data Platform (FDP), a major national system to be implemented later this year to will allow hospital trusts and integrated care systems (ICSs) to create their own data platform within the overarching infrastructure – which can then be connected to those of other local NHS entities. The platform, which will cost up to £500m to deliver over the coming years, will replace the incumbent NHS Covid-19 Data Store, which was implemented near the start of the coronavirus crisis to support the sharing of clinical and operational information across the health service.

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After being connected to FDP, the privacy system “will be used across NHS England in conjunction with various data platforms”, according to the commercial notice. This will potentially include other national data systems, as well as those operated at a local level by the country’s network of 240 trusts and 42 ICSs.

The aim is to ensure all databases and sharing between organisations is protected by a consistently high level of privacy and data security, based on open standards.

“The successful supplier will be required to scale the use of the solution across the [NHS],” the contract notice said. “Connectivity between NHS enterprise data platforms is extremely important as it will enable rapid scaling and sharing of tools and applications that have been developed at a local level, in a secure way, supporting levelling up and reducing variation across England.”

It added: “PET must have the ability to treat shared data between all levels of the NHS and be flexible enough to handle both traditional data protection scenarios, as well as being extensible to new and emerging data trends.”

The NHS is seeking to appoint a supplier to an initial three-year contract, due to commence in October and worth £5m a year to the chosen firm. This could be extended up to a term of seven years, and a value of £35m – depending on platform usage.

Potential bidders are advised that their proposal should be founded on open standards, so as to enable the system to be widely deployed and easily integrated. Bids for the contract are open until 26 July.

Sam Trendall

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