NHS could be 'carved open' by US healthcare profiteers, warns Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham

Campaign groups join call for health service to be exempted from landmark trade treaty between America and the EU


The NHS could be "carved open" for profiteering US private healthcare companies by the end of this year Labour has warned, as concerns grow over the implications of a landmark trade treaty between the US and the EU that critics say would give US healthcare giants, "irreversible" powers to bid for any NHS contract.

Negotiations between the EU and the US over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which aims to remove barriers to trade, are at an advanced stage.

Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, said the NHS must be exempted from the deal to protect it from market forces and international competition law which he said threatened the "fabric" of a publicly run, free-at-the-point-of-use NHS.

Mr Burnham travelled to Brussels earlier this month for talks with Ignacio Garcia Bercero, the European Commission's chief negotiator on TTIP. He said he had seen no signs the coalition had made the case for NHS exemption. If the deal goes through in its current form it would leave GP commissioning bodies powerless to resist legal challenges from US health giants with huge financial resources in the event of a contractual dispute, he warned.

"If this goes through it will mean that any Clinical Commissioning Group anywhere in England could be challenged by a US private healthcare company – sued," Mr Burnham said. "It's a question of control – the NHS used to be able to plan these things. If it wanted to run a particular service then it could... plan which contracts would go out and which wouldn't – it doesn't hold the cards any more."

Labour will be calling for an "NHS exemption clause" as part of its European Election campaign.

The Department of Health said fears about TTIP's implications for the NHS were "misplaced", but Mr Burnham accused the coalition of using the TTIP trade deal to reinforce a "hidden agenda" to expand the role of private health care in England, set in motion by Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms, last year.

"There's no doubt the Health and Social Care Act opens up the NHS to full competition – that was always the hidden agenda in my view and [TTIP] puts the rocket boosters on it," he said. "If it goes through the genie would be out of the bottle and it would be irreversible. The stakes couldn't be higher."

Negotiations over the landmark trade deal began in July last year. Research endorsed by the European Commission claims it could be worth up to 120bn euros (£100bn) annually to the EU economy once it has been fully implemented by 2027.

However, there are fears it could pose a serious risk to the UK's sovereignty, with key concerns being new wide-ranging powers that could give companies the power to sue EU governments for policies deemed to "discriminate" against free trade.

More than 200 organisations, including Greenpeace, War on Want and the TUC, also campaigned against elements of the deal. Campaign group 38 Degrees will consult its members this week over backing exemption calls. Director Ian Palmer said: "For us the NHS is always the most popular issue. For our members it would be about protecting the NHS, ensuring it was still able to provide the support and services they're used to."

Labour insists the coalition health reforms make it "compulsory" for all NHS contracts awards to be opened up to competition, allowing private firms to pick off the most lucrative contracts on a scale far greater than was permitted under Labour – an accusation the Government denies. A recent survey by the Health Service Journal revealed a quarter of Clinical Commissioning Groups – GP-led bodies which use NHS budgets to plan and pay for health services in a local area – had opened up services to competition for fear of breaking new competition rules introduced by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Mr Burnham said the rules "completely undermine" the ability of the NHS to "plan and optimise" local services, adding that a treaty which made it easier for US healthcare giants to secure contracts would further "unpick the NHS fabric".

American health giants such as Hospital Corporation of America already have expansion plans in the UK. HCA, the world's largest independent hospital company, has plans to open one of the country's largest private medical clinics in the Shard skyscraper in London as well as a further £300m worth of extra investment in the UK over the next five years.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We strongly believe these fears are misplaced. We are clear that these negotiations will not affect the ability of the NHS to deliver a world-class service. Local doctors will remain in charge of deciding who should provide services in the best interests of their patients, and there will be no change in access to the NHS for private providers. The TTIP negotiations have the potential to benefit patients through promoting collaboration across the pharmaceutical and life science sectors. There will be no change to the principle that access to NHS services is based on clinical need, not ability to pay."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little