Keep Our NHS Public position statement June 2020
We’re clear that we want Donald Trump nowhere near our NHS! But Keep Our NHS Public doesn’t just want to stop one potential Transatlantic sell-off. We demand that our Government guarantees by law that the NHS is a public service protected against inclusion in any trade deal.
Privatisation of NHS services has been growing for 30 years. Now private interests are increasing in key areas like NHS land and buildings, personal health data mining, finance, HR – as well as clinical support services like pathology tests, scanning and imaging.
Thanks in part to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, the NHS has been opened up, not just to UK companies, but also to European and American markets. Nowadays international trade agreements may cover services as well as goods – including public services like the NHS if these are already provided in part by private companies. Because the NHS has been turned into a market, it is at risk from the post-Brexit deals that the UK wants to make with the US, the EU and other countries and trading blocks.
Opening up the NHS like this will not only escalate privatisation of services: The following are at risk if the NHS is included in trade agreements - and which we should campaign against:
- Regulatory standards on goods and service can be lowered, endangering quality and safety and public health generally
- investment protection measures such as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) would lock in existing privatisation and allow transnational corporations to use an international trade tribunal to sue the government for massive compensation if new policies or laws threatened company profits, making privatisation almost impossible to reverse
- measures that undermine data privacy and allow the sale of confidential health data
- the extension of intellectual property rights, so decreasing our use of and control over pricing of drugs and medical equipment
- greater market (ie private company) access to NHS services – including to support services to the commissioning side of the NHS as well as to the services themselves and to public procurement (of goods and services for use by the public sector)
Until now, trade deals have been negotiated by the European Union on the UK’s behalf. Negotiations have been secretive and the UK Parliament has had no way to scrutinise or decisively veto an unsatisfactory deal. Following Brexit, the Government shows no signs of reducing secrecy, increasing Parliamentary debate on proposed trade deals, or ensuring democratic process.
KONP demands that that our government ends the running of our NHS through commercial and competitive contracts. We call for the NHS to be fully restored to a publicly-provided, publicly-funded universal and comprehensive health service. This would be the most effective way of protecting it from inclusion in trade agreements. In the interim, we demand legislation to ensure that the NHS is comprehensively excluded from trade deal negotiations.