How Palantir will steal the NHS

Stealth privatisation was always the endgame for public-private-partnerships.

Cory Doctorow
6 min readOct 1, 2022


A haunted, ruined hospital building. A sign hangs askew over the entrance with the NHS logo over the Palantir logo. Beneath it, a cutaway silhouette reveals a blood-spattered, scalpel-wielding surgeon with a Palantir logo over his breast, about to slice into a frightened patient with an NHS logo over his breast. Looming over the scene are the eyes of Peter Thiel, bloodshot and sinister. Image: Gage Skidmore (modified) CC

Britons are divided on many matters, but one uniting force that cuts across regional, party and class lines is jealous pride for the NHS and fierce resistance to its privatisation and the importation of America’s grisly omnishambolic health care “system.”

But while the British people oppose privatisation, the British investor class are slavering for it. Oligarchs love to loot public services, which is why the IMF is so adamant that the countries it “helps” sell off their public water, housing, even their roads and schools and museums.

Normally, the corrupting, immiserating effects of privatisation happen so slowly that they can feel like a natural phenomenon, a gradual change in the weather that makes everyone a little colder, a little more uncomfortable every day, until one day, the situation is unbearable.

But there have been moments of “big bang” privatisation where governments and oligarchs speed-ran the process of looting the public coffers and transferring them to private hands — think of the sell-off of ex-Soviet state industries to connected insiders.

Or think of Thatcher’s sell-off of council homes, an airdrop that converted shelter from a human right to an asset, in which “market forces” were allowed to “optimise” the housing system, with the result that everyday people can’t afford a home, while wealthy speculators trousered billions.

Thatcher had a supermajority, and she understood how to play different economic blocs against each other, resulting in the “shock therapy” of the 1980s. Her successors — both Tories and New Labour — had to move more slowly:

Back to the NHS. It has been subject to the death of a thousand literal cuts, as Tories and Labour alike have starved it of resources. More importantly, both parties have turned ever-larger chunks of the NHS over to private-sector looters who have taken over hospitals, services, record-keeping and more.

These “public-private partnerships” were billed as a “third way,” combining the strengths of both…



Cory Doctorow

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