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Labour health chief fears trade deal is threat to free care.

Byline: JASAON BEATTIE Political Editor

PRIVATE medical firms in the US will be able to take over huge swathes of the NHS under a new trade deal, Labour warns today.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham says the proposed free trade treaty between the EU and the US could make further privatisation of the NHS "unstoppable". The warning comes as new figures reveal that hospital trusts have had to recruit an extra 450 staff just to cope with the new competition rules introduced under the Government's botched NHS shake-up.

Trade pacts similar to the EU-US proposal between other trading blocs have seen multinational firms take legal action against governments if they are prevented from accessing markets. Mr Burnham will travel to Brussels today to press the European Commission to exempt the NHS from the agreement. He will warn that US healthcare firms could also use the Government's Health and Social Care Act 2012 to make inroads into the NHS. His visit comes amid new evidence that NHS trusts and GP commissioning groups are being "bogged down" by the opening up of the health service to competition law.

The British Medical Association has also voiced alarm. Spokesman Dr Mark Porter has called for healthcare to be ruled out of negotiations. He said: "Failure to secure this exemption could result in significant damage to the health of Europe's citizenry." Mr Burnham added: "Privatisation of the NHS is gathering pace under David Cameron. Cameron, Clegg and Farage have all failed to defend the NHS and the national interest - presumably because they support this drive to open up the NHS to increasing privatisation.

"Under David Cameron, competition is taking hold in the NHS. There are now more people employed to marketise and privatise the NHS than there are consultant brain and paediatric surgeons put together. In the absence of Government action, it is left to Labour to stand up for the NHS. David Cameron needs to be reminded that he has never been given the public's permission to put the NHS up for sale."


WARNING Andy Burnham
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 9, 2014
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