GUEST COLUMN: Brexit and the NHS, by Roy Bainton

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As the European ‘stay in’ and ‘opt out’ debate rumbles on, both sides of the argument continue to scrape the bottom of the political barrel looking for scare stories.

One of the latest ‘stay in Europe’ campaigners is Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has warned us that if Britain pulled out of Europe then the NHS would be under serious threat.

This seems an odd argument, considering that the NHS did quite nicely for a healthy 25 years before Britain joined the EEC in 1973. So why is the man so unpopular with doctors and nurses suddenly posing as the champion and protector of our NHS? What does he really think about Britain’s health service, which, when surveyed by the American Commonwealth Fund, came out top of 17 countries for cost effectiveness, with the American system at the bottom?

If we read Hunt’s comments as the co-author of two books, Direct Democracy and The Plan, we might even question why he’s the health minister at all. In one of these books he campaigns for the privatisation of the NHS and the use of a USA style insurance scheme. He mockingly refers to the NHS as “the national sickness service”. He also states “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain.” He refers to the organisation he is in charge of as “a 1940s monopolistic structure no longer relevant in the twenty-first century.” Yet now Jeremy Hunt tells us that the NHS is safe - provided we stay in Europe.

Like most of his cabinet colleagues, Jeremy Hunt is a millionaire with personal worth listed as £4.8 million. He knows that if Barack Obama manages to conclude the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe before he leaves office, then the corporate world can move into Europe with mergers and takeovers, and one of the juiciest morsels the international bankers are seeking is the NHS. Hunt is already a 49% shareholder in the £35 million education listings firm, Hotcourses. As the man in control of our NHS, should the global players get their hands on it, he’ll no doubt have a top seat on the board. None of these TTIP deals can be interfered with by EEC nations because they will be covered by an investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, under which corporations can legally challenge decisions made by governments. In short, if we issue laws democratically to protect our NHS, the corporations can take us to court and we have no right of appeal. Is this why Hunt wants us to stay in the EEC?

If so, have your credit cards ready. Based on average American health insurance figures, here’s a sample of what you could end up paying with a privatised UK NHS:

Ante-natal care: £20,000. Ante-natal care with ‘C’ section £35,000. A broken arm: £3,200. Hernia: £4,200. Breast cancer treatment starts at £16,000 and if you need brain surgery, £75,000.