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What would a trade deal with Trump do to the NHS?

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(Christopher
Credits 
(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Campaigners say British ‘desperation’ could ‘kill off’ the health service

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019 - 6:48am

A trade deal with Donald Trump could “kill off” the NHS and put lives at risk, campaigners claim.

“Powerful American corporations” are now “eyeing up” the health service, The Mirror says, and want to stop it keeping its costs down.

The paper adds that a no-deal Brexit would make the UK heavily reliant on a trade agreement with the US, a “desperation” that would force the country to make “major concessions”.

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Health campaigner Diarmaid McDonald said: “The demands of the US could take a wrecking ball to the NHS budget, pushing it to the edge of bankruptcy and putting the lives of patients across the UK at risk.”

The Office of the US Trade Representative has released an overview of objectives for US-UK trade negotiations following Brexit.

It states that American drug firms, often referred to as Big Pharma, want “full market access for US products” and feel strongly that rules to keep NHS drug prices low are “unreasonable”.

If these price controls were swept away the NHS could be forced to pay significantly inflated American costs of up to six times more for operations and over 20 times more for some medication.

For instance, a hip replacement costs the NHS around £7,500 but in America it is as much as £37,000. The acid reflux drug Nexium, which costs 66p per pill in the UK, costs £7.40 in the US. Big Pharma is worth £1.3trn annually to the US economy.

During his state visit to the UK in June, Donald Trump said the NHS would be “on the table” in US-UK negotiations. Although he backtracked after a public outcry, his US Ambassador to the UK, the billionaire Woody Johnson, has also said the NHS would be up for grabs in trade talks.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson told ministers they must not discuss the NHS in any trade deal with the US, but Dr Tony O’Sullivan, co-chair of campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, said: “The verbal assurances from Johnson that the NHS won’t be in trade deals are nothing more than hot air.

“We’ve had false assurances that the Government isn’t privatising the NHS when it is already. A trade deal with the US would be the death knell of the NHS and would nail down the market in the NHS for ever.

“We demand total assurance the legislation will be changed and we will re-nationalise the NHS.” 

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