Protest on 12 July against TTIP outside Europe House, the London Headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament, in Smith Square, London. A puppeteer on stilts with a ‘puppet’ dressed as an NHS nurse to highlight the threat the dea …

Tim Lezard
Protest on 12 July against TTIP outside Europe House, the London Headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament, in Smith Square, London. A puppeteer on stilts with a 'puppet' dressed as an NHS nurse to highlight the threat the deal poses to public services like the NHS.

Protest on 12 July against TTIP outside Europe House, the London Headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament, in Smith Square, London. A puppeteer on stilts with a ‘puppet’ dressed as an NHS nurse to highlight the threat the deal poses to public services like the NHS.


by Tim Lezard

Unions involved in the TUC-led All Together for the NHS campaign are backing a Bill sponsored by Clive Efford MP that will put patients’ needs before private profits and protect health services from privatisation.

The National Health Services (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill, published on Friday, will have its Second Reading on November 21st. It will restore responsibility to the Secretary of State for Health for providing a comprehensive health service, free at the point of delivery.

The Bill will also prevent NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts prioritising private income at the expense of NHS patients. It removes those parts of the existing legislation that enforce market competition in the NHS. It will also make sure that a forthcoming EU and USA international trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), does not subject the NHS to competition and market obligations.

A range of unions representing health care workers, including the GMB, RCM, SoR, Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, UNISON and Unite have strongly welcomed the Bill.

Speaking on behalf of the All Together for NHS campaign TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “People do not want to see the privatisation of their health service. But the government’s top down restructuring and preference for the private sector is inevitably taking us in that direction. Since these changes came into effect, the majority of contracts awarded have gone outside of the NHS, making a mockery of the Prime Minister’s claims that there is no privatisation taking place.

“That’s why we need a bill that will promote an integrated National Health Service, free at the point of delivery, prioritising patient’s needs, and protecting precious NHS resources from wasteful competition and market bureaucracy.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is a Bill that rightly places patient care before profits.  It ensures that Britain’s most loved institution operates on its founding principles of a service that meets the needs of patients and is free at the point of delivery.

“It also protects the NHS from exploitative competition and shields the service from the damaging implications of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and any other international trade agreements.

“The NHS is a key political area for the next General Election. And voters will certainly keep a close eye on the Bill as it progresses through Parliament. We encourage people to write to their MPs and urge them to support the Bill on Friday 21st November.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, said: “Our NHS has been thrown a lifeline which MPs must seize now or risk alienating huge swathes of the NHS- loving British public. This is a chance for MPs from across the political divide to ditch the very worst parts of the government’s Health and Social Care Act and to end once and for all the market-driven privatisation of our NHS.

“David Cameron would do well to remember that he had no mandate to sell our NHS piece by piece to the private sector. The public was promised no top down reorganisation only for the NHS to fall victim to the biggest and most costliest upheaval in its history.  With senior Tories admitting that the £3 billion NHS shake-up has been their biggest mistake in government, now is the time for all MPS to right that wrong.

“The question still being asked is why David Cameron is refusing to take the NHS out of TTIP. People are firmly opposed to the inclusion of the NHS in this controversial EU-US trade deal known as TTIP. It’s time for David Cameron to stand up for Britain and use his veto in Europe to protect our NHS from this dangerous trade deal.”

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership gives US investors in privatised NHS services new rights to sue the government in ‘international tribunals’ if it tries to take those services back into public hands.

The tribunals that rule on these cases operate outside the UK legal system and can make governments pay unlimited sums of money with no right of appeal. In similar deals ‘investor protection’ has forced the Polish government into a €2.2 billion settlement and led to the Slovakian government having its foreign assets seized – because they changed their minds about privatisation of their health insurance systems.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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