The Nhs

Started by Maxi, October 28, 2019, 20:37:05 PM

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Did anyone just watch the Dispatches documentary on Channel 4, about the possible effects on the NHS if it's part of any trade deal we do with the US after Brexit? Our annual drugs bill for the NHS is £18 billion a year, if we had to have US prices it would go up to £45 billion per year, or an extra £500 million per week


Yes, I watched it and thought it was quite a slow and rather poor analysis over half an hour which delivered no more information than was covered by BBC Newsnight in about 5 or 10 minutes during the Summer.  It was mostly about camera shots of a reporter going up to people to ask questions that they were reluctant to answer because most of the people targeted by the reporter were concerned about how the answers would be spun ...

This is a very sensitive subject because our Press and News media tends to overplay possible consequences of changing anything to do with the NHS and the Labour and other parties tend to blatantly lie about what might happen based on the flimsiest of information.

The core issue here is that USA pharma companies want to charge the UK NHS more for drugs and so their lobbyists are pressing USA politicians hard to ensure that any new USA - UK trade deal would result in higher prices for their medicines to the NHS.  UK news reporters are simply saying that this fact means that the NHS might be hit with massive increased costs. The Tories have said that the NHS is not for sale though this does not mean that USA firms would be prevented from charging more for their services or drugs.

What needs to be understood here is that any trade deal would involve looking at all industries and our government needs to calculate what the overall benefit would be to the country for every possible combination of trade terms and at the same time be clear about BOTH:

a) which industries / government services would benefit and how those benefits affect users or businesses in terms of cost or any extra taxes that might occur, and;

b) which industries / government services would be hit with higher costs and how the government would subsidise the extra costs to make sure those activities adversely affected are put back into a fair position.

It may be that when an overall trade deal is looked at, the UK would be tens of Billions of £s better off but some sectors would be adversely affected by the deal so the Government would have to make sure that the adversely affected sectors are given appropriate subsidies or simply more cash (in the case of a government-funded service).

Until a whole deal is actually proposed and the details analysed for, say, the NHS, constant talk about hitting the NHS with massive increased costs is simply scare-mongering.

I am speculating here, but I can imagine a deal where the USA insists on USA medicines being charged at higher costs to the UK NHS. Lets say that will be £500m a week more. If the overall deal meant that the UK is actually £5,000 million (or £5 Bn) a week better off then obviously its a case where the government could afford to not only give the NHS more funds to cover the increased costs but could actually afford (because of increased tax revenue) to give the NHS even more than the increase in its costs caused by the trade deal.

In conclusion, its just scare-mongering to point at the possibility of increased costs to any sector or service when you are not also pointing out that trade deals involve compromises to achieve an overall benefit to the country that would then be redistributed by government in the normal way by adjustments to the relevant regulation and tax frameworks.

In the end, if a trade deal is proposed that does not result in overall benefits for the UK, it will be rejected at the early stages of a negotiation. The USA and UK governments know that there will definitely be big gains overall to make from a close trade deal for both countries because we already do massive amounts of trade and there is massive scope for more trade both ways - they just need to carefully work out what the details will be and then sell the details to their own populations along with how they will support those sectors or services that happen to lose out ...
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