4 reasons MPs must vote for the NHS protection amendment

7 October 2020

In July we outlined three reasons why Conservatives in the House of Commons should vote to amend the Trade Bill that was then before them to include the NHS protection amendment. 

Incredibly, despite the pressure that was mounted on them by members of the public, 75% of whom, in our recent poll, said they wanted our NHS to receive special protections in any post-Brexit trade deals, the majority of MPs (all but one of them Conservative) voted against explicit protections for our NHS in the Trade Bill.  

The House of Lords passed that amendment in December, and MPs now have another opportunity today, Tuesday 19th January, to protect our NHS from trade deals. 

Here are four things the NHS protection amendment would do and why MPs must pass it today: 

1. It would prohibit the sale of NHS patient data to private companies

The text of the amendment states: “The condition in this subsection is that the agreement… prohibits the sale of patient data, public health data and publicly provided social care data.”

We have already seen many people express some reticence over downloading the NHS Covid-19 app due to privacy fears. But what many of us do not know is that the data we give to the NHS when we visit our GP or fill out an online form about our symptoms is already being sold. According to a report by The Observer in December 2019, data from millions of NHS patients has been sold to US companies for research without the consent of the patients. That is an outrageous betrayal of our trust. This amendment would prevent such betrayal.  

2. It would protect the rights and terms and conditions of employment of NHS workers

The text of the amendment states: “The condition in this subsection is that no provision of that international trade agreement in any way undermines or restricts the ability of an appropriate authority… to protect the employment rights or terms and conditions of employment for public sector employees and those working in publicly funded health or care sectors.”

The Covid-19 outbreak has really shown us just how important to the health and wellbeing of our nation the people who work in the NHS are. Over the last 7 months, they have risked their lives and worked unforgiving hours, and they have done so with a smile on their faces. We should be raising their wages and benefits, not placing them at risk of worsening working conditions. 

According to a ComRes poll last year, a majority of the public think that the practice of transferring NHS staff into the private sector is unacceptable. These transfers, according to trade unions, are more often than not accompanied by a deterioration in the pay and working conditions of the staff who are transferred. This practice is only bound to accelerate if our NHS is not protected from a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. Why would we want to worsen the pay and conditions of our amazing NHS staff after they have just saved our lives in an outbreak?

3. It would prevent US pharmaceutical companies hiking the prices of drugs they sell to our NHS

The text of the amendment states: “The condition in this subsection is that no provision of that international trade agreement in any way undermines or restricts the ability of an appropriate authority...to regulate and control the pricing and reimbursement systems for the purchase of medicines or medical devices.”

US pharmaceutical companies have always been quite forthright about their desire to charge our NHS exponentially more for their drugs than they are currently able to. In February this year, in their submission to the United States Trade Representative, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry lobby group for US drug companies, called on the US government to place the UK on an international trade watch List. The move was an effort to put pressure on the British government in advance of trade negotiations with the US government in a bid to secure more favourable (i.e. higher) prices for US drugs exports to our NHS. 

We do not yet know what our government’s negotiating position will be, outside of vague promises that our NHS is not on the table in any trade deal with the US. It is important that we safeguard against the possibility of the US forcing our NHS to pay more for drugs. And the only way to do that is to write it into the law. 

If our NHS pays more for drugs, it means it has less money for other important services and staff within the NHS. The effects of this would be enormous and catastrophic, especially in a time of Covid-19.  

4. It would guarantee that decisions that affect our NHS are made by the relevant UK authority, not by a foreign court

The text of the amendment states: “The condition in this subsection is that the agreement…explicitly excludes provision for any Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause that provides, or is related to, the delivery of public services, health care, care or public health”

The amendment also states: “The condition in this subsection is that the agreement…contains explicit recognition that an appropriate authority (within the meaning of section 4) has the right to enact policies, legislation and regulation which protect and promote health, public health, social care and public safety in health or care services”

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of leaving the European Union, the outcome of that vote, the subsequent European Parliament election and the last General Election make it abundantly clear that the British public wants to see sovereignty over our institutions explicitly returned to the United Kingdom. 

What this requires, in terms of the Trade Bill, is that the NHS is excluded explicitly from the purview of any Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause in any future trade deal. The Investor-State Dispute Settlement system allows multinational companies to sue governments for the introduction of public policies and/or regulations which those companies believe undercut their future profits. 

A UK government, regardless of party, should be able to enact “policies, legislation and regulation which protect and promote health, public health, social care and public safety in health or care services” in the United Kingdom without fear of being sued. We should properly take back control of our NHS, and that means passing this amendment. 

Do you believe in public services for people not profit?

Win campaigns for public ownership by subscribing to our mailing list! We'll hold your data in accordance with our privacy policy and send you carefully chosen information about current and future campaigns, projects and appeals. You can unsubscribe at any time.


Viv Littlebury replied on Permalink

Time is running out...

Anonymous replied on Permalink

Save our NHS or we are doomed

Lisa Natasha replied on Permalink

Protect the NHS from privatisation. It makes Britain great! Do the right thing!

Delma Warden replied on Permalink

If the NHS protection amendment is not passed it would be the end of the NHS as we know it. We will have similar health care uncertainties and concerns as many EU and other countries, i.e. greatly increased costs, over-prescribing, fragmentation of health care provision, etc. ONLY INSURANCE COMPANIES would gain and there are plenty of these predators just waiting to take control.

Neville Weeks replied on Permalink

Does this Government ever take notice of what it’s citizens want, or do they just listen to the few that share their own goals?

John Wilkins replied on Permalink

There will be a NHS as long as there are people to fight for it!

Badger replied on Permalink

If we have now to talk about 'sovereignty,' this must mean control over our water, air, energy, common land, wildlife, national resources like the health service, care, social security, roads/transport infrastructure, education, media-sphere, law enforcement, politics and money.

Any entity which takes advantage of an unprecedented access to large numbers of people must be accountable to them. We allow them into the public space, we allow them to use our infrastructure to sell to us ; they have to be answerable to us.

We are taxed now in a multitude of ways, as well as directly, and it is about time that our politicians stopped pontificating to us about how much the public purse can afford and opened up about how it allocates money which we have paid. Talk about cultures of dependency should be kicked into the long grass. It is private companies who are leeching off public money, which have a culture of not just dependency, but entitlement and access.

If we had left it to private enterprise to provide our post-war doctors and hospitals, we would still be waiting, like many less-developed countries. Just as America is beginning to adopt our system of universal healthcare, we are allowing a small group of greedy people to sell off ours to make it more like America's, with millions of people not being able to afford proper care.

Our state schools are increasingly privately-run but not with the same good results as 'private' schools, so we have two-tier education. Our universities face collapse as students are asking : fees4what? My child paid £585 per week last term to sit in our garden shed to study. We paid for the computer, the connectivity, all work-related housekeeping. We also paid for the heating, lighting, cleaning, connectivity and security of the university infrastructure when it wasn't even being used. Nobody has mentioned discounts for infrastructure non-use, even though it is supposed to be privately-owned, and as such open to the market forces of non-demand.

Our railways are propped up by public money, as are tax-averse employers.

Our farmers are subsidised despite their outdated, polluting practices. The amenity they are supposed to provide sits on top of complete disregard for wildlife. We are re-introducing beavers while getting rid of the badgers, foxes and hedgehogs.

The so-called Royal Mail has sold the Queen's head to private companies. We could have had the parcel capacity owned by Jeff Bezos if we had not deregulated. Madness. In what world does it make sense for a private individual to be a trillionaire when we are talking about a few million to tide millions of people over during covid? How did this happen?

But to prove our cause, we must undertake to be proud of public ownership, and operate all our enterprises to the best of our abilities. And develop respect for them in our children.

Add new comment

Copy link