After the general election, I noted how the British people voted to reject ever more centralised control by the EU in favour of free trade and cooperation. I asked when the rest of the EU would get the chance to vote for cooperation between nation states – in other words, for democracy over bureaucratic government from Brussels.
This is my article in the Daily Telegraph explaining why Labour’s NHS claims miss the point – it’s the EU that forces health authorities to accept bids from private companies from around the world.
Jeremy Corbyn keeps telling us that “the NHS is not for sale”. It has become his mantra for this election – the problem is that he is too late!
The reality is that the NHS is already for sale, and has been for decades. EU directives and Tony Blair’s obsession with “testing the market” are to blame.
The EU’s Public Procurement Directive states clearly that any public tender over a certain amount has to be open to any company with a subsidiary in the EU. The UK government and the NHS is prohibited from demanding that a provider of services has to be based in this country.
Any contract for a service not delivered “in-house” has to go to tender, and this not only includes services for hospitals but also materials or pharmaceuticals used within the NHS. This also includes chemists, opticians and dentists, who are all independent contractors who choose to provide their services within the NHS.
The Labour Party has blamed the Tories for selling the NHS for years – this is a lie. It isn’t because of the Tories that much of the NHS has been sold off: the NHS was sold long ago because of the European Union.
The idea that a free trade agreement with the US will suddenly open up all sorts of problems with US companies suddenly taking over the NHS is a fantasy. Large parts of the NHS are already being operated by non-UK companies. Instead of making inaccurate political soundbites, Corbyn should open his eyes and realise that the ship of NHS privatisation has already sailed largely due to EU membership.
UnitedHealth Group is an American healthcare company, listed as number 6 on the Fortune 500. Optum Health Solutions (UK) Limited, is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group and have won several tenders in the UK working within the NHS on commissioning, organisation and data analysis. Private companies from around the world have had access to our NHS for years, and a US trade deal following Brexit is not going to change that.
The EU directive is very specific about the rules for any procurement for any public body in any EU member state. This means that unless Labour is proposing to nationalise all chemists, opticians and dentists, and nationalise the production of pharmaceuticals, the equipment and furniture used in the NHS – then large parts of the NHS will still be up for sale to any foreign company who wishes to bid for it.
Another Fortune 500 company with significant stake in our NHS is Centene Corporation. Through its UK subsidiary “Simplify Health” and its 75% ownership of “The Practice Group”, it provides a number of services to the NHS: running 22 GP surgeries, a walk-in centre and CAMHS – mental health services for young people in Surrey.
Another example of foreign corporations providing NHS care is Ramsay Health Care, an Australian owned company. They run a network of private hospitals and neurological units in the UK, contracted to treat NHS patients. In August 2017, they won a 7 year contract to provide spinal surgery in Dorset, a contract worth over £30 million.
The EU’s emphasis on free market, neoliberal policies was coupled with the Labour Party’s obsession with the need for ‘competitive tendering’ to try and reduce the costs of public services. Although parties of all colours have been ‘guilty’ of this, the Labour Party under Tony Blair can be seen to have catalysed the transition from a truly public service, to one open to foreign private companies. Corbyn’s brass neck in making the central tenet of his election campaign ‘not selling the NHS to Trump’ is hypocrisy and ‘fake news’ of the highest order.
One only has to look at NHS dentistry to see the overwhelming control which US companies already have. “My Dentist” is the largest single provider of NHS dentistry in the UK with over 600 dental practices and is 75% owned by a US hedge fund. This is not to say that private investment in the NHS should be portrayed as a threat to our existence, but that Corbyn’s election offer of ‘saving the NHS from foreign companies’ is inaccurate scare-mongering.
Instead of using the NHS as a political football, and demonising private companies, why doesn’t Corbyn get his facts right and address the issues? Because of the EU, and the Labour Party’s implementation of free market neoliberalism, our public services have been for sale for decades. The NHS is facing serious, fundamental problems, and by focusing on irrelevant sound-bites, the only people who lose out are the patients.
My latest article for Conservative Woman looks at Labour’s high-profile announcement of free dental check-ups.
HAVING been an NHS dentist for over 22 years, I am fed up with hearing politicians of every colour spouting meaningless soundbites and implementing ‘sticking plaster’ strategies in the field of NHS dentistry.
The Labour party pledge of £450million for free dental check-ups is more of the same. Jonathan Ashworth’s claim that free check-ups are the answer to ‘DIY dentistry’ and oral health inequalities is frankly fanciful. https://labour.org.uk/press/labour-to-offer-free-dental-check-ups-for-all/ In light of the responsibility his party bears for the dreadful state of the nation’s teeth, such gesture politics are insulting and betray ignorance of the real problems.
These are fundamental and structural and they have been deepening for decades. Addressing them requires a holistic, large-scale reform programme – starting with the change of the Labour-imposed contract of 2006.
The contract was designed to fulfil Tony Blair’s promise in 1999 that everybody would have access to an NHS dentist in the subsequent two years. It did not, with the result that only about 50 per cent of the population sees an NHS dentist, and this figure has stayed the same for decades.
The contract is driven by tick boxes and targets, rather than by patient need. NHS dentists are forced to spend too much of their time filling in pointless forms, which reduces their time with patients, and the morale of the profession is at an all-time low.
This great reform has been accompanied unsurprisingly by a reduction in dentists’ pay of over 35 per cent over the same period. It is not difficult to understand why there is a shortage of dentists willing to do NHS work.
The biggest problem NHS dentistry faces is the difficulty of recruitment, and it’s a problem that is getting worse. Three-quarters of practices struggle to fill vacancies and the more NHS work you do, the more difficult it becomes.
The problems experienced by DentAid, the dental charity cited by Jonathan Ashworth which has been providing a service in Dewsbury for years, are not down to the question of payment but to patients’ inability to access an NHS dentist – in other words, staff shortage.
The postcode lottery for dentistry is worse than it has ever been. In parts of Cornwall people have a 120-mile round trip to see a dentist, and in parts of Cumbria people have to travel 80 miles to see one.
People ‘pulling out their own teeth with pliers’, which Mr Ashworth is concerned about, like us all, is not primarily down due to the cost of dental check-ups. It is the direct result of the cost of treatment and the terrible lack of NHS dentists across the country, both of which problems are entirely overlooked in the Labour Party’s glossy new policy proposal.
Astonishingly for a party that claims to have such concern for the poor, Labour’s proposals blithely ignore the fact that the most common cause of general anaesthesia for children is to have rotten teeth removed.
I have seen these problems first hand, and the pain and suffering which tooth decay and poor oral health in children causes, and they should not feature in the 21st century in Britain. Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal is not a solution, let alone the solution.
Millions of pounds is spent every year by the NHS on this entirely preventable disease. It is an extremely stressful experience both for the child and the parents which will not be solved by Labour’s free dental check-ups scheme. For a start, all dentistry, including check-ups, is already free for everyone under the age of 18.
And, Mr Ashworth, in case you were not aware, all NHS treatment costs include a check-up, so a patient needing treatment will pay exactly the same amount with or without Labour’s new proposal. People with toothache who resort to DIY dentistry will be no better off with this new proposal.
We are facing deep-rooted, structural inequality of oral health in the UK and this proposal from the Labour party is a distraction, not a solution, to a problem of their own making.
Why don’t we have a real discussion about the oral health of this country, rather than just throw money at it and try to gloss over it with meaningless soundbites?
The Express covers my comments to an election rally in Carlisle.
‘On becoming on MEP in May, the EU sent me over 100 pages on how I could claim taxpayers’ money for all sorts of things. I’m sure these will really cheer you up. Did you know that MEPs can claim foreign language classes and private healthcare?’
I continued: ‘Rest assured, I’m keeping a tab. Monies unspent will be given to a UK-registered charity in the north west. At least we’ll get some of the wasted tax money back to the constituency.’
Watch the video here.
On 5 September, Henrik debated the latest developments on Brexit with Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies.
As part of a visit to meet constituents in Stockport on 30 August, I spoke to Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live about the manufactured hysteria surrounding no deal and the project fear tactics being used, most recently around prorogation.
Listen to the clip:
I appeared with my fellow North-West MEP colleague Claire Fox on Episode 3 of @BrexBox, the Brexit Party’s online TV channel which takes an irreverent, behind-the-scenes look at Brussels and Strasbourg by the Brexit Party MEPs. In this episode, presented by Martin Daubney, we were joined by Belinda De Lucy and discussed the outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May’s swipe at the Brexit Party and talk about the great big, EU jobs stitch-up.
You can watch further episodes here: youtube.com/c/brexbox
I wrote for BrexitCentral about why the Brexit Party has become so popular so quickly. If the traditional parties cannot represent ordinary voters anymore, then we have real problems.
“Voters feeling that they do not have a party that represents them any more concerns me deeply. If people do not feel that they have any democratic influence then it is every man for himself and our society divides along ethnic, religious and tribal faultlines. It is not leaving the EU that is causing a rift in our society, it is staying in the EU, the lack of democracy and the refusal of politicians to honour their manifestos that causes the rift.”
Read the full article here.
Writing for BrexitCentral, I argue that the UK’s once-great fishing fleet has been devastated by EU rules. When we leave the EU, we must leave the Common Fisheries Policy.
“If you take a place like Fleetwood in Lancashire, which was once England’s third biggest fishing port, it now has no full-time fishermen left with the last remaining trawlerman recently putting his boat up for sale. This is absolutely disgraceful considering the fishing industry in Fleetwood used to employ 11,000 people. The decimation of the fishing trade is not only disastrous for coastal communities, but has economic implications for the whole country. British fishing communities may have had the backs of the Westminster elite turned on them for the past forty years, but this will not be the Brexit Party’s response.”
Read the full article here.
My article for BrexitCentral on how watching the experience of Danes being forced to vote again after voting against the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 has convinced me we need to push back against a political establishment that doesn’t want Brexit.
“In June 2016, unlike most in this country, I felt that I had seen it all before. It took me back to 2nd June 1992 when the Danish people stood up to the might of the European establishment and voted ‘No’ to the undemocratic Maastricht Treaty. I was part of that campaign in Denmark and the sense of relief and elation in 2016 was on par with what I had felt over two decades before.
“The relief, however, was short-lived. We were lulled into a false sense of victory by the political class. What is happening in the UK now also happened in Denmark in 1992: the establishment did not like the answer the people gave them, so we were forced to vote again based on threats and spurious promises.”
Read the full article here.