This is Dr Louise Irvine’s letter in today’s Haslemere Herald:
Jeremy Hunt Is Right To Suggest A Debate
Jeremy Hunt accuses me of scare mongering about risks to NHS from TTIP and privatisation. (Letters’ Page, Haslemere Herald, Don’t Make NHS A Political Football, 30th January 2014.) On the contrary, bringing to public notice legitimate concerns about an issue that would otherwise be secret is acting responsibly.
Debate and expression of opinion should be welcome in a democracy – something that Tory-led Waverley Borough Council needs to be reminded of, having forced the removal from residents’ properties in Godalming and Farnham of hundreds of People’s NHS boards stating opposition to NHS privatisation.
Mr Hunt tries to dismiss concerns about TTIP by citing an “accidently on purpose” leaked letter from the chief EU negotiator for TTIP Mr Ignacio Garcia Bercero. This has been thoroughly debunked. Bercero’s assurances that because the NHS is a public service it would be protected is invalid. Because there is a competitive market in the NHS, it is no longer considered to be a purely public service but an “economic undertaking”, and therefore fully subject to EU competition law. Interestingly Bercero’s letter confirms the NHS is included in TTIP negotiations and that Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) rules would apply. ISDS could “lock in” NHS privatisation by enabling companies to sue our government for loss of potential profits if it legislates to reverse privatisation.
If, as Jeremy Hunt says, TTIP won’t affect the NHS then why does David Cameron not simply ask for it to be excluded?
Mr Hunt also dismisses concerns about NHS privatisation alleging it’s not increased much. This is contradicted by a new report by Oxford Economics for the Business Services Association showing the value of outsourced NHS services has risen from £6.9 billion in 2010 to £12.2 billion in 2013 – and that was before the Health and Social Care Act regulations came into force in 2013, obliging GP commissioning groups (CCGs) to put more services out to tender. The biggest clinical contract on the market so far is £1.2. billion for cancer and end-of-life care in Staffordshire. CCGs, as in Devon, who don’t put services out to tender can be investigated by Monitor for anti-competitive behaviour, so the idea that GPs are free to decide what’s best for their patients is laughable.
I don’t agree with the way Jeremy Hunt bats away TTIP and NHS privatisation concerns with his clichéd responses of “political football” or “scaremongering” but I absolutely agree with him that we need a grown up and factual debate. I invite him to name the time, date and place. I’ll be there!
Dr Louise Irvine
National Health Action Party prospective parliamentary candidate for SW Surrey