February 23, 2024

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Disquiet grows over perceived Palantir takeover of FCI

3 min read

The Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI) has been wracked by a further round of resignations of trustees, triggered by the ongoing financial and governance crisis, deep disagreements between factions, and deep disquiet among some members about growing ties to Accenture and Palantir. 

Digital Health News has learned that the end of last week saw notable resignations, including two trustees: Vijay Luthra, interim chair of the board of trustees; former chair and trustee Dr John Williams; and Mark Bailey the former interim chair of council, who resigned as a member. 

This leaves just three trustees at FCI, the minimum required by the Charity Commission, with two of them from Accenture and Palantir, expected to be announced tomorrow as winners of the £480m Federated Data Platform. 

After a crunch series of no confidence votes in September, which saw the departure of the chair of trustees and CEO, new FCI Board members and trustees were appointed.   

Paul Llewellyn, CCIO from Accenture, now interim vice chair; and Justin Whatling, managing director global health and life sciences at Palantir Technologies, now FCI trustee responsible for finance, have been appointed Board members of the distressed FCI. The third trustee is Prof Wendy Dearing, an academic and educator. 

Dr Whatling has experience of leading professional membership bodies, having previously been chair of BCS Health and Care.   

A spokesperson for Palantir told Digital Health News: “Justin is a long-standing, well-respected member of the clinical informatics community, who has held a range of roles for the FCI. During his application to join the Board of Trustees, he had no knowledge whatsoever of who else had applied.” 

However, because Accenture and Palantir are currently jointly bidding for the £480m Federated Data Platform, his role and that of Llewellyn have come under intense scrutiny from some FCI members who express severe misgivings about such close ties. 

The close links to consultants Accenture and US AI and analytics firm Palantir as FCI seeks to chart a path to recovery have specifically raised concerns among some members about future independence of the professional membership body. 

FCI members currently play a role in oversight of the Information Governance of the Federated Data Platform, where Accenture and Palantir are thought to be front-runner to be awarded the contract. 

In another incident that has fanned flames of concern in the febrile atmosphere, an informal November meeting of trustee board members was held at the London offices of Palantir. 

One senior FCI source told Digital Health News that to have a viable future FCI needed to build partnerships with corporate partners such as Accenture and Palantir once it had sorted its governance and finance.  

There was previously considerable disquiet about the FCI accepting sponsorship from Palantir for its 2022 conference. 

As well as providing members of the FDP IG group the FCI has also provided independent scrutiny of FDP, most notably in a carefully researched April report that questioned the direction of travel of FDP.  

One concerned FCI member told Digital Health News that the appointments of Llewellyn and Whatling risked undermining independence: “That effectively puts them [Accenture and Palantir] in charge of the FCI which is the very body that has the most representatives on the NHS FDP IG Group that is examining the Palantir data flows.”   

They continued: “There is growing unease amongst senior clinical informaticians across the sector who are very concerned with the NHS Palantir deal but now have no representative body that can speak out. They have in effect been silenced.” 

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