Expert Warns of TTIP Privatisation Consequences for NHS

A legal expert has warned that a controversial trade deal could have a significant impact on the future of the NHS.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed trade agreement between the European Union and the United States that has been widely criticised by some economic observers.

And Michael Bowsher QC believes that the agreement could ultimately result in some parts of the NHS being privatised.

Bowsher was speaking in an advisory capacity having been commissioned by the Unite Union.

The Government has also received legal advice on the issue, but has refused to publish it despite Freedom of Information requests.

TTIP is likely to be a major issue during the upcoming referendum on the European Union, with left-wing voters in particular expected to oppose the trade agreement.

And Bowsher opined that the finalised trade agreements could force the NHS to contract health services to private firms.

The lawyer also believes that the agreement could cause complications with ultimately handing contracts back to the NHS once they have been privatised.

Reporting on the issue, Bowsher suggested that the solution is “for the NHS to be excluded from the agreement, by way of a blanket exception contained within the main text of TTIP”.

Gail Cartmail, Unite’s assistant general secretary, emphasised her belief that there is a massive onus on the government to exclude the NHS from any agreement related to this trade deal.

“The UK government has no right to allow EU bureaucrats to negotiate away our ability to control the future of our NHS. David Cameron has the power to exclude the NHS from the trade deal – he must act and prevent the irreversible sale of our NHS.”

However the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is leading on the TTIP negotiations, denied the views of both the union and Bowsher, and indicated that the TTIP deal will not significantly impact upon the NHS.

“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.”


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