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Former NHS tech chief joins firm bidding for £480m NHS data contract

Published on: 22 Sep 2023

The former head of NHS digital policy has been appointed to the advisory board of a leading UK data technology company.

Matthew Gould was originally hired to head up the NHSX department created by then health secretary Matt Hancock to lead on technology policy for the service.

Following the absorption of NHSX into other agencies, Mr Gould became the director general for digital transformation at the Department of Health and Social Care and the national director for digital transformation at NHS England.

Mr Gould left the NHS to run London Zoo operator, The Zoological Society of London, in the summer of last year.

However, in January, Mr Gould sought advice from the government’s Advisory Committee on Business Appointments over his planned appointment on a “paid, part-time basis” to the advisory board of AI firm Quantexa.

Quantexa is one of the remaining bidders involved in the procurement process for the NHS’s £480m federated data platform. It is part of a consortium with IBM. Palantir is understood to be the other remaining competitive bidder.

In an unusual move, the DHSC “preemptively consulted” the UK head of Palantir over the planned appointment. He “raised no objections”, according to the DHSC

Quantexa also has a contractual relationship with government through a framework agreement with Crown Commercial Services for “off the shelf” software for big data and analytics.

According to the documents published this week, ACOBA recognised there was a risk that Mr Gould could “assist Quantexa unfairly” through his “influence and contacts”.

Mr Gould played a leading role in procuring the NHS data store during the covid-19 pandemic which was awarded to Palantir, and had involvement in plans to award a further data contract that evolved into the procurement for the federated data platform.

DHSC advised ACOBA that Mr Gould would not have access to sensitive information as it had been over a year since his involvement in this work and he was bound by an ongoing duty of confidentiality.

ACOBA recommended Mr Gould’s appointment to the advisory board of Quantexa should be subject to certain conditions, including that he should not draw on privileged information from his time at DHSC and that he should not become personally involved in lobbying the government on behalf of Quantexa for two years from his last day of service.

Mr Gould told HSJ: “It’s an exciting time for me to be joining Quantexa’s advisory board, at this critical stage of growth for the company.

“Quantexa’s innovative approach to helping customers in the private and public sectors make data their most valuable utility is revolutionizing decision-making across multiple industries. I look forward to working alongside the talented team at Quantexa to connect data and drive better outcomes for organizations.”