This one failed to get published in The Indpendent but we shall persevere.
In speculating that leaving the EU would be the biggest threat to the health service your cross -party alliance (
Brexit is ‘biggest threat’ to the future of the NHS, say 100 MPs, MEPs and peers from five parties Indpend net 5 February)
are ignoring the real and present danger the NHS faces from a privatisation driven as much by the EU as Tory, Lib Dem and New Labour enthusiasms for big business.
The pace of market-driven healthcare ‘reform’ has speeded up since capitalism’s 2008 crash as neo-liberal governments – with both conservative and social democratic labels – have imposed the costs of saving the banks on working people.
Public health services with their massive property holdings, substantial staff numbers and massive cost streams are a tempting target for cuts and privatisation.
Even the pro-EU European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) has pointed out that “…EU institutions are calling for major healthcare reforms as a means of consolidating public expenditure.”
Countries under the cosh – like Greece – or others “in receipt of financial assistance” get no choice but to implement these ‘reforms’ and are obliged to do as they are told in their respective Memorandums of Understanding (MoU).
And as the ETUI says: “Other member states too have been encouraged to undertake reforms to their national healthcare systems. While initially the encouragement was issued in the form of ‘recommendations’, these have, under the most recent changes in European economic governance, become increasingly tantamount to ‘instructions’.”
Decisions of the European Court of Justice and the European Commission mean that services delivered by national health systems are now considered to be economic activities, and EU rules on the internal market (free movement of goods, persons, capital and services), public procurement and state aid, increasingly apply to healthcare services.
A 2011 European Commission directive on cross-border health care, drawing on internal market rules, presented this as an expansion of ‘choice’ for patients.
But we have a choice. A post Brexit Britain able to remake our NHS for people rather than profit.
Nick Wright Communist Party
Ruskin House 23 Coombe Road Croydon CR0 1BD