The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Palantir and privacy

Data mining firm Palantir’s reputation is as shadowy as the crystal ball it’s named after. The Silicon Valley firm’s data science tools are used by spooks, militaries and, perhaps most notoriously, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Now it’s working with the NHS  – with mixed results. In addition to a personal protective equipment tracking tool, which procurement sources criticised earlier this month, the company is helping a commissioning support unit track mortality. 

Similar moves in the US have drawn scepticism. It’s understood the NHS retains ownership of the data it puts into Palantir’s software – but privacy campaigners have raised concerns at home and across the Atlantic as to the firm’s motivation.

It’s clear that covid-19 has given the company a chance to expand its UK operations. What isn’t clear is how it will work with the health service in the future.

Is a resignation Cumming?

Three trust chief executives did not bite their tongues when news broke about Dominic Cummings allegedly flouting the lockdown rules.

Kathryn Thomson, chief executive of Liverpool Women’s Foundation Trust, vented on Twitter. “NHS staff and other key workers going above and beyond to protect our society. In our hospital we have had to make difficult decisions about dads not attending scan appointments. Limiting parental access to the Neonatal Unit and #cummings flouts the rules. Disgraceful!!”

On Saturday, Bradford Teaching Hospitals FT chief executive Mel Pickup also posted on Twitter. Under a picture of the prime minister defending Mr Cummings during the government daily briefing, Ms Pickup wrote: “To deter me ever from getting too big for my boots my mum always taught me that no-one is indispensable. Turns out some are.”

East Sussex Healthcare Trust chief executive Dr Adrian Bull went further and said Mr Cummings should resign. Such angry responses are hardly surprising when the NHS is going to such lengths to request that people stick to distancing rules. This is no time for “One rule for them, one for us”.