UK Government must legally protect NHS from trade deals, empty promises are Not enough

The House of Commons has voted against the Trade Bill amendment proposed by the House of Lords that was “intended to protect the NHS and care, including health and care data, from control from outside the UK through trade agreements.” 1 All members of the government’s party voted against the amendment with 357 votes. All other party MPs voted in favour of the amendment.1

As Students for Global Health UK, we stand in direct opposition to this decision. The absence of legislative protection of the NHS from international trade deals risks undermining the ability of the NHS to provide “a comprehensive publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery.”2 A service that is not public, free at the point of access and accessible to all is far from our vision of “a fair and just world in which equity in health is a reality for all.” 3

This lack of protection could have several negative consequences. Namely, easier access for multinational business giants to provide services for the NHS, as well as accessing patient data, through open procurement contracts. This could further add to the bureaucratic burden of the NHS and its agility when responding to national or international emergencies as we have witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be only a matter of time before the complex networks of trade deals for service procurement fails the patient.

We ask the government, that if the NHS is “off the table” when it comes to international trade deals, why have they voted against this amendment, which only secures that the NHS remains “off the table”?

We urge that the government reconsiders their decision to stand against this amendment and rectify the situation prior to the Trade Bill briefly returning to the House of Lords on February 2nd, 2021.

@GOVUK must legally protect the NHS from trade deals to avoid a future where complex networks of trade deals for service procurement fails the patient.