Google locked out of Covid-19 database for NHS patients
THE NHS has dropped Google from its Covid-19 patient database, dashing the Silicon Valley giant’s hopes of embedding itself in Britain’s health service in a time of crisis.
Despite signing a contract with the health service’s digital arm NHSX to provide consultancy services, the partnership fizzled out last month, The
Daily Telegraph has learnt.
In the early days of the outbreak, Google, along with Microsoft, Amazon, Palantir and AI firm Faculty, volunteered to build a platform that would bring together Covid-19 data from all parts of the healthcare service. Officials would use it to draw up policies based on outbreak predictions and improve healthcare provisions.
Announced in March, the Covid-19 “Data Store” collated test results, protective equipment supply chains and hospital bed numbers along with other medical information like previous health issues, including mental health.
Faculty used this data to produce dashboards that were used in the Government’s daily updates.
Doctors and nurses were expected to use Google Forms and other G Suite software to enter patient information like hospital occupancy and A&E capacity to the Data Store.
However, an NHSX spokesman said that Google had been let go “after an evaluation of their tools”. Google declined to comment.
There has since been no public announcement about the effectiveness of the Data Store but reports suggest the NHS has been struggling to get a grip on its testing data.
A Sky News investigation revealed a haphazard approach with officials reading from a mismatch of Excel spreadsheets and handwritten tables, which were reportedly submitted as part of the national testing data.
Civil rights groups have raised concerns about the Data Store and say that a relaxation in data protection law, to enable medics to help people without fearing breaking the law, might be abused. The NHS says that it owns all of the data, not the technology companies. The initial NHS Data Store contracts showed that Faculty, the company employed by Dominic Cummings for the Vote Leave campaign, and Palantir had initially been granted intellectual property rights and were allowed to train their models and “profit off their unprecedented access to NHS data”, according to campaign group openDemocracy.
Government lawyers told openDemocracy that the contracts have been updated to remedy the loophole.