Let the NHS political games begin! (UK health service - round two)

National Health Service ... Health care in the United Kingdom

Will a Trump trade deal lead to the privatisation of the NHS? (excerpt): Is there real cause for concern, or have the warnings been overcooked? [...] According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, it has historically taken the US an average of three-and-a-half years to negotiate and implement bilateral free trade agreements with various countries, although there is huge variation. Britain hasn’t negotiated a trade deal independently of the EU for decades and appears to be unprepared for talks with the US. While the American government has already published its negotiating objectives, no equivalent document has emerged from the British side. This suggests Britain’s trade negotiators haven’t yet decided what they actually want to get from a deal.

[...] Their argument is that US pharmaceutical companies often charge American customers much more than clients in Europe and elsewhere. It’s because large state-funded health services like the NHS have massive bargaining power. They buy drugs in enormous amounts and are good at negotiating discounts from the pharma companies.

In America, healthcare provision is much more fractured and there is no central agency bargaining with the drug companies, so they often get away with charging higher prices. The Trump administration describes this as foreign countries “freeloading” at America’s expense. It reasons that US drug companies have to charge US patients more because their profits are being squeezed outside America, thanks to public health systems like the NHS. So unusually, Mr Trump doesn’t just want US consumers to pay less for their drugs – he wants people in other countries to pay more, in the belief that this is the key to cutting prices in America.

All of this is a concern for some trade experts, because they think post-Brexit Britain will be the underdog in trade negotiations with the US, and might be compelled to take a hit on drug pricing to get an overall deal across the line. The country with the bigger market usually has the upper hand and tries to put its own interests first, and there is little indication that President Trump will try to do Britain any favours on trade. So the fear is that President Trump could use trade negotiations to try to force the NHS to pay higher prices for American drugs. (MORE - details)

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The defenestration of Britain (intro): A moment of clarity. The US President declares that the UK’s free at the point of use £120 billion a year National Health Service “must be on the table” for post-Brexit trade talks. This being Donald Trump, he immediately backtracked during an interview with Piers Morgan. As his reality show friend and self-appointed transatlantic cheerleader, Morgan had presumably conveyed to Trump the overwhelming high regard and trust the British public places in the NHS.

While not perfect, the system delivers universal healthcare at around the average EU cost of c.9.8% of GDP. The US, by contrast, spends nearly twice as much -- just under 18% of its bigger GDP -- on a system which even after Obamacare is far from universal, institutionally unequal, and comes with fear of bankruptcy from illness attached.

It goes without saying POTUS meant exactly what he said first time round during his state visit press conference with outgoing PM Theresa May. Chances are, in fact, most American administrations given the opportunity would seek, if not so directly say, the very same. After all, what else exactly is left for the UK to do a deal with the US?

Two close allies with deep cultural and economic ties predating a century of shared military intelligence and nuclear weapons. It’s not just trade in fanciful financial services and actors either, many a Boeing still relies on Rolls Royce jet engines to get up in the air. In just the last four years, Amazon, Bloomberg, Google, Facebook, and the US Embassy to name but five, have or are spending over one billion pounds each on a central London office to call their own.

Without the NHS, BBC, and un-American EU food regulations on the table, there is little for the so-called “US trade deal” to negotiate. It is no coincidence its loudest advocates in Britain have come from the same milieu of free market fundamentalist think tanks and deep right of the Conservative party, among which Nigel Farage first flourished before becoming the face of Brexit. They know full well no political party is going to win a UK election by offering to privatize the NHS. Euphemisms like “modernization and reform” on the other hand can still further their core goal of more handouts for the wealthy, crumbs for collaborators, and submission for everyone else.

A no deal Brexit leaving the UK feeling isolated in which “deals,” however meaningless, can be spun as a boon, offers a once in a lifetime Trojan Horse for “Hong Kong on Thames” slash tax ideologues to put their fantasies into practice. (MORE)

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4 million now on NHS waiting lists (Labour Paraty kicks ball into Tory playing field): More than four million patients are now waiting for treatment as Tory failings on the NHS mount towards “the single biggest crisis since its creation.” Research by the Labour Party reveals that Tory targets for maximum waiting times on operations now exist in name only. General union GMB said that, with 100,000 unfilled staff vacancies, the NHS has little chance of providing the treatment needed by those on waiting lists. Labour’s research reveals that the government’s target of an 18-week maximum wait for surgery for most patients has not been met since February 2016.

The delays have led to a 205 per cent increase in the number of patients waiting for treatment for dermatology problems such as eczema; a 206 per cent increase in the number of patients waiting for treatment for neurological afflictions such as epilepsy and motor neurone disease; a 188 per cent increase in those awaiting treatment for rheumatology treatments including arthritis and osteoporosis; and a 164 per cent increase in the numbers waiting for treatment for hearing loss, laryngitis and chronic tonsillitis.

[...] The Tories’ response has been to instruct management organisation NHS England to consider abandoning the targets rather than providing the funding needed to make them achievable. Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “These figures are shocking and behind every statistic is an anxious patient waiting longer in pain risking their health deteriorating further.” (MORE)

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