Data analytics and defence company Palantir is likely to be announced in the near future as the winner of a £480m ($582m) contract to overhaul the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported yesterday (3 October) that the announcement could come as soon as this month (October), though the information is not yet public and is therefore subject to change.
If Palantir wins the contract, it would mark the latest and deepest inroad the company has made into the UK healthcare system following its involvement in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the country.
Leaked emails from 2021 revealed that the firm intended to penetrate the market through the acquisition of smaller NHS suppliers, paving the way for more thorough integration without as much backlash.
While this plan has largely failed, an almost half-billion-pound data contract aiming to “unlock the power of NHS data to understand patterns, solve problems … and ultimately transform the health and care of the people they serve” would certainly give Palantir the kind of leverage it seeks.
The company has already faced criticism over data privacy concerns, though the NHS has stated that the software supplier chosen will “never hold or have access to NHS data for any purpose other than as directed by that NHS organisation.” Unfortunately, the truth of this statement will only be tested with time, and the track record of other US companies when handling sensitive information is unlikely to quieten fears.
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Nor are the words of Palantir’s co-founder and current chair, Peter Thiel. The billionaire investor told Oxford Union members earlier this year that “the NHS makes people sick,” and described the public’s love for the institution as “Stockholm syndrome.” His proposed solution, opening the publicly owned body up to “market mechanisms,” may play well with the ruling Conservative Party – and indeed the current opposition – but clashes with the public’s view, who despite Thiel’s protests still rate it as their greatest source of national pride.
If Palantir wins the contract, it would represent around a quarter of the company’s revenue in 2022, albeit spread over at least five years, according to GlobalData.
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