Monday, 17 February 2020

Campaign reply – Safeguarding the NHS in US Trade Deals

I have been contacted by a number of constituents recently regarding concerns the NHS should be kept outside of any future trade deals with the US.
As I have stated repeatedly in the past, if the NHS were ever ‘on the table’ in future deals with the US I would strongly oppose this. However, I am reassured by both our Government and the US Government who have repeatedly said, at every level, that the NHS will not be a part of any future trade deal.
I feel it is important to clarify that a trade deal would never have the power to stop the NHS being a free, universal service and there is legislation already in place regarding restrictions and regulations for private companies, including US companies, to bid for contracts to provide NHS services.
There are many high-profile politicians within the US who are publicly blaming the UK and other European countries for the high cost of medications and healthcare within the US. However, the reality is the UK, through the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care initiatives, have the bargaining power to negotiate lower prices of medicines whereas the US does not have national procurement initiates and therefore do not hold the same bargaining power. As I understand it, national bargaining is banned in the US following pharmaceutical lobbying, the group who would of course be severely financially impacted by such initiatives, and therefore the most effective step the US could take to reduce costs would be to change their own laws. I believe it is easier for US politicians to use the UK and European countries as a ‘scapegoats’ for the issues within US healthcare to give the impression it is out of their hands, regardless of the facts of the situation.
As a result, there is no need for legislation to protect the NHS as it is not on offer. Implementing legislation would be timely and costly and potentially delay other more urgent legislation. As trade deals are already in the works, it would not be possible to implement without a great deal of resources and time from across both Houses, at great cost to the taxpayer. This would not be a good use of parliamentary or government time when it is unnecessary.
The Prime Minister has reiterated his commitment, both publicly and privately, to the NHS and I assure you none of my colleagues across the house would support the NHS being a part of trade deals. It is one of our most loved institutions and has been in the hands of Conservative governments for the majority of its time. It will always be safe in our hands.
I hope this clarifies my position and reassures you that the NHS would never be open to negotiations in a trade deal with the US.