Nurse Hurry

If we lost the referendum, I was going to change the name of this blog to I Told You So…

Well, we did lose but I’ve decided just to be smug instead. Sadly there isn’t even fun in being right after the vote since it’s all too late and I’m left feeling helpless as our future is kicked around by uncaring Unionists.

Still, somebody’s got to point out that the emerging narrative of the TTIP deal is that it seriously threatens the viability of the National Health Service…Unite is now campaigning on this point with widespread support. Yet, if you can muster the effort, drag yourself back to September.

Better Together released a press statement signed by 200 No-voting health professionals accusing Yes experts of breaking up the NHS and of ‘ constantly peddling lies.’ They were thanked by Jackie Baillie, no doubt for revealing ‘the truth’. Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS England popped up to warn that there was no threat to the Scottish service as it was entirely devolved.

Even after the referendum, the Labour strategist John McTernan was writing that one of the lessons learned from the campaign was that if you tell a big enough lie you can change opinion – ironically he meant the Yes case on the NHS, not the multitude of Unionist myth and smear.

Yet it does seem the transatlantic deal is designed to open up the NHS to American corporations. TTIP does not allow them to bid for contracts in any fully-public sphere – for example the protected Scottish NHS, particularly if we voted Yes. Yet the law affecting health services in England has been radically re-ordered by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which allows doctors’ consortia to control about £60bn of the NHS budget and commission local services –which take place through competitive tendering. Contracts are open to the voluntary and private sectors, a process that is currently outsourcing hundreds of millions of pounds of services.

The Act actually ended a key aspect of the NHS by ending the Secretary of State’s duty to secure or provide health services throughout the country, a duty that has been in force since 1948 and is the key underpinning of a free at point-of-use, comprehensive and democratically accountable health service. That means it is no longer the job of the elected minister for health to take responsibility for health services. Remember that appearing in a manifesto?

The government will no longer be responsible for providing for all your health care needs free of charge. Instead, a range of bodies not accountable to parliament, including for-profit companies, will decide which services will be freely available and to whom.

This plays into TTIP because it is a deal signed by both the US and the EU – to which the UK, not a separate Scotland, is signatory. There is no Scotland opt-out and arguing that a region of the country (UK) has a different administrative system is hardly grounds for exclusion. A TTIP lawyer can simply argue that the UK Parliament is sovereign and has total jurisdiction over all Scottish affairs. As Scotland is not an independent country, TTIP encompasses the entire member state.

The UK has refused to apply for exemption of health services and would be doomed to fail in any case because the 2012 Act which paves the way for private provision, surrenders the case for a publicly-run service.

Scotland’s only serious hope of rescue from a system that privatizes health and allows companies to sue the government for loss of earnings, is that our services is too small in scale to be worth a multi-national competing for…a forlorn hope.

Here is Caroline Molloy of OurNHS… ‘privatisation of the English NHS accelerates towards the tipping point where it will be judged to be a fully-fledged market, no longer allowed to exclude the private sector even if it wanted to. Will it drag a non-independent Scotland with it, with or without the TTIP Trade Treaty? We won’t know until a court challenge comes along – and by then it could be too late.’

And Labour, she says, has been far too quiet on the issue – Andy Burnham apart – as Ed Balls looks desperately for ways to save money. Balls is advised free of charge by the accountancy firm PWC which helps companies seeking contracts.

Perhaps this is where Margaret Curran’s new Socialist Labour Party will take its first stand, standing up for the rights of all Scots to a fully public NHS whatever decisions are made by Labour in England? But surely it was Margaret and Labour who told us there was no danger – no threat – and there was nothing to worry about. Tricky reversion for Labour there. Still I told you so.

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