Google has been dropped from a partnership deal with the NHS to populate its coronavirus database, posing a setback for the tech giant’s plans to integrate into the UK’s digital infrastructure.
The health service’s digital arm NHSX signed a contract with Google in April to consult on the project, but the deal was terminated last month.
An NHSX spokesperson told the Telegraph that Google had been let go “after an evaluation of their tools”, while Google declined to comment.
Announced in March, the so-called Covid-19 Data Store collects information on test results, personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and hospital bed numbers, along with personal medical information.
Microsoft, Amazon, Faculty AI and controversial data firm Palantir have all signed up to contribute to the data store so far.
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 database, the Telegraph reported.
Google is also assisting the NHS with five other contracts, as of 2019. Separately, an approach it developed in conjunction with Apple is being used to develop a contact tracing app for the NHS, to help tackle the spread of coronavirus in the UK.
Campaign group Open Democracy warned earlier this year that firms such as Google could “profit from the intellectual property generated from the project”, thanks to a loophole in the contract agreement.
The government later told the group it had updated the terms of its contracts with private sector partners to prevent this from happening.
The NHS’ contact tracing app is now not expected to be finished until winter, after peers said it was no longer a “priority” in the government’s coronavirus action plan.
The proportion of contacts reached by England’s track and trace system fell again in its fifth week of operation, figures released last week revealed.
The Department of Health said 4,347 people had their cases transferred to the system between 25 June and 1 July. There were 14,892 people identified as close contacts, and 70.8 per cent were reached and asked to self isolate.
In total, 31,421 people have been transferred into the track and trace system since it began on 28 May, with 75.7 per cent of those reached.