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Peter Thiel Says British Affection for NHS Is Stockholm Syndrome

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel, whose data analytics company Palantir Technologies Inc. is vying for a £480 million ($595 million) National Health Service data contract, has described British people’s affection for the state-backed health service as “Stockholm syndrome.”

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The venture capitalist’s comments came during a Q&A session after a speech at the Oxford Union, a 200-year-old debating society, on Monday. He also said that the crisis-stricken health service, currently grappling with strikes and long wait times for emergency care, was making people sick and needs “market mechanisms” to fix it. Such mechanisms include privatizing parts of it, avoiding rationing and loosening regulations.

“Peter Thiel was speaking as a private individual and his comments do not in any way reflect the views of Palantir,” said company spokesman Ben Mascall.

Thiel is co-founder and chairman of Palantir, an American company that provides software and consulting services to companies and government agencies to organize data from disparate sources. The company has recently been making inroads to NHS England, with eyes on a contract to build a national data platform to manage the allocation of resources.

Read More: Palantir Had Plan to Crack UK Health System: ‘Buying Our Way In’

“In theory, you just rip the whole thing from the ground and start over,” Thiel said after an address in which he argued that a perceived fear of disruption was holding back technological and scientific developments. “In practice, you have to somehow make it all backwards-compatible in all these ridiculous British ways.”

The first step to fixing the NHS was, he said, to break away from the view that it is “the most wonderful thing in the world” and understand it as an “iatrogenic” institution, which means it makes people sick.

“Highways create traffic jams, welfare creates poverty, schools make people dumb and the NHS makes people sick,” he said.

“At Palantir, we are proud of our support for the NHS,” Mascall said. “We are committed to the principles on which it was founded and our sole focus is on helping dedicated and hardworking NHS staff deliver better outcomes for patients.”

The Department of Health and Social Care and a spokesman for Peter Thiel did not respond to requests for comment.

Palantir’s Foundry software was used during the Covid-19 pandemic to track the take-up of vaccines and, more recently, manage the backlog of patients waiting for elective surgeries. But the company’s involvement with the NHS has drawn criticism from civil liberties groups, who have claimed the company enjoys privileged access to contracts over rival firms.

A spokesman for NHS England said that the procurement process was “open and transparent.”

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