How the USA Could Kill the British NHS
There is currently a huge issue facing Britain as Scotland votes this week on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom. While watching a debate on the BBC this morning, I learned about something else that could have devastating effects on the National Health Service. That something is the EU/US Free Trade Agreement or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Interestingly, Alex Salmond, the first Minister of Scotland and the leader behind the "Yes" campaign for independence, has vowed to exclude the Scottish NHS from this agreement if they win independence.
Although the NHS is technically a social service, which would normally be exempt from this type of agreement, the Health and Social Care Act of 2012 opened up the NHS to market competition thereby included in these types of agreements.
Such agreements tend to favor the least restrictive rules of the parties involved, which means the more commercial interests of US companies would outweigh the policies put in place by English government. For instance, there are caps on drug prices here in England. The new agreement would mean that in order for US companies to compete, those caps would be removed, meaning skyrocketing costs for patients. It also means that US corporations can sue the British government if any legislation could potentially limit future profits. So if a medical device had to undergo more stringent scrutiny here than in the US, the manufacturer could press legal action for future damages.
What really surprises me is how little I knew about this topic until today. I'm someone who works to keep on top of health issues on both sides of the pond! I wonder how many of my colleagues know about the impact of this agreement? I've been vocal about my support for nationalized health care and for the NHS. It would be devastating to see decades of work be lost with this agreement. Somehow I think that is exactly what the coalition government wants though.