NHS ‘must be protected from TTIP’

19 Nov 14
Strong measures are needed to protect the NHS from the planned transatlantic free trade deal being negotiated by the European Union and the United States, the NHS Confederation has said.

By Richard Johnstone | 19 November 2014

Strong measures are needed to protect the NHS from the planned transatlantic free trade deal being negotiated by the European Union and the United States, the NHS Confederation has said.

The group, which represents all bodies in the health service and also runs its European Office, said that the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presented both threats and opportunities for the NHS.

Trade unions have warned that the free trade deal, which is intended to remove barriers to market access and investment across a host of areas, could open up the service to more private providers.
Setting out its position on the pact yesterday, the NHS European Office said it was pushing hard for ‘robust and explicit safeguards in TTIP to protect our health services’.

Director Elisabetta Zanon said negotiations were still at an early stage, so it is impossible to predict exactly the impact on the NHS, but there were ‘areas that may ring warning bells’.

These include concerns that American corporations could challenge domestic health policy measures using trade arbitration panels, instead of filing claims before the courts. This has already happened under other international trade agreements, she said, raising concerns that future UK governments may think twice about introducing new policy if they fear potential challenges.

‘We want to make sure that there are no adverse consequences for the NHS, and also that the UK doesn’t miss out on opportunities to raise standards and promote cutting-edge technologies that will benefit patients,’ Zanon added.

‘Nothing in TTIP will stop the four UK countries deciding, through their democratically elected governments, how to run their own health systems. But the UK can press for certain kinds of services, such as publicly funded health services, to be protected from the scope of the trade pact. The precise wording of the final TTIP agreement will be critical in determining the extent to which NHS services may be affected.’

She added that the NHS European office would continue to keep a close eye on negotiations as they unfold.

‘We are using our strong links with key players both in the EU and the UK to push hard for robust and explicit safeguards in TTIP to protect our health services.’

 

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