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Health professionals call for NHS to be protected as parliament prepares to debate Trade Bill

OVER 400 NHS and public health professionals signed an open letter to all MPs today calling for the NHS to be protected from trade deals. 

Among the supporters are senior and high-profile figures from the health service, publishing and academia, including the Lancet editor Richard Horton and the Faculty of Public Health president Professor Maggie Rae. 

The letter comes as Parliament is to debate the latest stage of the Trade Bill on Monday. 

Its signatories are calling for Parliament to amend the Trade Bill to exclude health services, claiming that if it does not then “the NHS will be on the table in future trade deals.”

Junior doctor Sarah Walpole, who wrote the letter, said: “In the UK, we take it for granted that we won’t go bankrupt paying for medical treatment. 

“Covid-19 has shown us the importance of healthcare being accessible to all, and the value of our NHS and public health system. 

“The Trade Bill in its current form leads the way towards ongoing fragmentation and marketisation of UK health services and higher drug prices, a path which the NHS may not survive.”

The letter also claims that failing to protect the NHS from trade deals would open up the service to being charged more for drugs, enshrine the rights of US healthcare companies to access the NHS in international treaties and “lock in” privatisation that would be incredibly difficult for a future government to reverse.

We Own It director Cat Hobbs said: “At a time when we’re relying on our health service more than ever before, it’s beyond shocking that the government would pass legislation that could see our NHS be carved up and sold off.

“Boris Johnson’s warm words aren’t enough. We can’t wish away the threat that trade deals pose to our NHS. Instead, what we need is concrete protection.”

Ms Hobbs said that we not only do not have the protection at the moment, Parliament is also not being given “the most basic powers of scrutiny” on trade deals.

“That means that neither MPs nor the public will be able to see what is being included and how our NHS will be affected,” she added. 

“MPs debating the Trade Bill must listen to the public and stand up for our treasured NHS. 

“If they don’t, their constituents won’t forgive, and they won’t forget.”

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