(Bloomberg) -- Palantir Technologies Inc., the U.S. data analytics company, has hired the former head of artificial intelligence at the digital wing of Britain’s National Health Service as it looks to sign a lucrative new contract with the U.K. government.
Indra Joshi quit as director of AI for NHSX in March, saying it was “time to take a break before moving on to my next challenge.” She has since lined up a job with the U.S. data technology company founded by Peter Thiel.
The move may raise concerns about conflicts of interest, since Palantir is competing for a U.K. contract to manage datasets for the NHS. The work may be worth 240 million pounds ($313 million) and would deal with a new Federated Data Platform to deliver “transformational improvements across the NHS.”
The government has already run into trouble over its relationship with the U.S. listed company after handing Palantir a 23 million-pound contract to run the NHS Covid-19 Data Store, which gave the firm access to patient records. Privacy campaigners took the government to court, saying the arrangement broke transparency rules. The case was dropped after the government disclosed the details of the deal.
As head of AI at NHSX, Joshi was instrumental in driving NHS deals with tech firms. She signed contracts and oversaw a 140 million pound grant program to fund private companies that are developing AI to improve diagnostics in areas such as breast cancer. The grants come with special access to NHS patient datasets.
A Palantir spokesman said the company was “delighted that Indra has agreed to join the team, which we are aiming to grow by 250 in the U.K. this year.”
The company is expanding rapidly in Britain, where it currently employs 600 people and processes sensitive data for the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office. Under the NHS Covid-19 Data Store contract, it is helping to clear the backlog of patient cases that were left untreated because of the pandemic.
“We are proud of the work we have done with NHS over the last two years in response to the Covid-19 crisis, which included helping to power the NHS’ Covid-19 vaccination program,” a Palantir spokesman said.
The NHS guidelines prohibit former staff from lobbying or recruiting old colleagues for six months after joining the private sector, which a spokeswoman described as “strict post-employment restrictions.” Joshi left the NHS on March 31.
Huge sums of U.K. taxpayer money are currently being invested in the life sciences industry, with a particular focus on AI.
Joshi set up and was the director of the NHS AI Lab, a 250 million pound project to deliver AI-driven technologies into the U.K. health system. Its budget included the 140 million pound grant program.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.