American health giants could end up running crucial parts of the service in a move which could prove to be irreversible
American health giants could end up running crucial sections of the NHS, under a deal planned by Tory ministers to let them bid on huge government contracts.
David Cameron’s team insist the plans have “immense potential”.
But campaigners say it means that if a future government tries to wrest back control of the health service from multinationals, it would face being sued by profiteering firms.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement is currently being negotiated by the EU and the US.
Ministers believe the removal of trade barriers in a host of industries under the deal would boost the UK economy by £10billion a year.
Health Minister Earl Howe said the NHS should not be excluded from it, claiming it could help British medical and pharmaceutical firms.
He said: “It would be highly unwise and detrimental in our view to exclude health.”
But campaigning group 38 Degrees warned the trade deal would put the NHS at risk from profiteering US firms.
The group’s executive director David Babbs said: “It would open up Britain to the US health industry. How could that be anything but bad news for our NHS?”
And Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail warned the shake-up could lead to legal challenges over NHS contracts by US health firms if a future government tried to take privatised health services back under public control.
She said: “The Government had no mandate to privatise our health service – they certainly don’t have a mandate to make it irreversible. We say to Cameron, use your veto.”
Earl Howe accused critics of “scaremongering” about the agreement and denied the Government was planning wholesale privatisation of the NHS.
More than 175,000 people have signed a petition calling on Business Secretary Vince Cable to “fix or scrap” the trade deal.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham says the NHS must be exempt from an agreement that threatens its future.