The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US could be a serious threat to the NHS and healthcare contractors.
Leading barrister Michael Bowsher states that the trade deal allows private US firms to easily take up NHS contracts. The deal looks to remove trade barriers between the biggest trading blocs in the world. However, Bowsher, who works for the Unite union, says the current safeguards do not offer protection to the health service.
Bowsher stated that the TTIP “does pose a threat to future governments wishing to take the NHS back into public hand” and the NHS could be forced to outsource services that it wants to maintain in-house. He said that the clauses meant to protect the NHS are not strong enough to protect the government should it want to cancel the NHS contracts.
However, the Department for Business insisted that the health service was not at risk due to the TTIP, and claimed that the treaty had provisions to ensure that the member states could protect publicly-funded healthcare services.
A Department for Business spokesperson said: “The NHS is under no threat whatsoever from the TTIP deal or any other trade and investment agreement.
“It cannot force the UK to privatise public services or prevent it from regulating in the public interest and any suggestion to the contrary is both irresponsible and false. It will remain up to the UK Government and devolved administrations to decide how to run publicly-funded health services, including whether private companies should be involved. Where a service has previously been provided by a private provider, this is not irreversible.”
However, Unite feels differently: “This legal advice shows beyond doubt that the NHS is at risk from the European trade deal with America. Unite will be presenting compelling evidence to the Government this week which should spur politicians into action and protect the NHS from TTIP,” stated Unite Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail.