Observations Future of the NHS
Is the NHS really safe from international trade agreements?BMJ 2015; 350 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h2179 (Published 28 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2179
- Lucy Reynolds, research fellow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK,
- Martin McKee, professor of European public health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
International trade agreements generally attract little public scrutiny in the United Kingdom, but while some are uncontroversial, others are not.1 One, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP),2 currently being negotiated between the European Union and United States, even features in the 2015 UK general election manifestos, with all three main parties supporting it, albeit with certain reservations, and upcoming parties such as the Green Party and National Health Action Party opposing it.3 There are concerns that TTIP, which will cover over 40% of the world’s economy, would enable global corporations to over-ride a future UK government seeking to reverse aspects of NHS privatisation,4 potentially leading to the replacement of the NHS with a US style market based system.5
The UK government could opt to remove many aspects of healthcare from the scope of TTIP, just as the French government has excluded its cultural sector. Yet the coalition government has declined to do so, arguing that this is unnecessary.