Assessing the potential impacts of a trade deal on our health and the NHS

I tabled an amendment on the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill in order to ensure that the potential health impacts of any proposed trade deal are assessed prior to its agreement and implementation.

Unfortunately, after two and a half hours I was not called to move my amendment so I’ve copied the speech I was going to give in full below.

 

I rise to move my amendment (a) to NC 6.

This amendment seeks to ensure that the potential health impacts of any proposed trade deal are assessed prior to its agreement and implementation. Within this, it would also consider the impacts of a deal on our already very over-stretched NHS.

It adds to the list of other impact assessments which the member for Brighton Pavilion [Caroline Lucas], has just moved and which I also support.

Governing involves making decisions. I believe that wherever possible, these decisions need to be based on high quality, strong evidence whichever side of the House you sit. I despair at the knee-jerk, emotional often irrational decisions that too many of our leaders are making, and the chaos and destruction that often ensues.

Even worse are the casual decisions that are made based on arrogance or self-interest.

In the same vein, I was disappointed that my New Clause which sought to prevent any Minister of the Crown from financially benefiting from any proposed trade deal, was not selected for debate.

I was under no illusion that the Government would support this, but I wanted to highlight this issue. For those of you who have still not read Prof Danny Dorling’s excellent book on what really has driven Brexit, I suggest you do.

If national policy is being driven by the narrow interests of a few, and their agenda is about their own enrichment, our politics is not just wounded, it’s broken.

Politics should be about public service, period.

 

HEALTH CONTEXT

Sir Roger, I know that you will be aware that the public’s health over the last 10 years on several measures has not seen the improvements that one would expect from the 5th richest country in the world.

For the first time since the 1890s we’re seeing a slowdown in health improvements, including a flatlining in Life Expectancy:

  • LE men
  • LE women

But this varies across the country with LE, for example,

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, which calculates life expectancy on behalf of the UK pension industry, has found that falling longevity has accelerated. Last year’s analysis cut forecasted life expectancy by five months.

Compared with 2015, projections for life expectancy are now down by 13 months for men and 14 months for women. [4] This makes the Govt’s pensions policy for women particularly cruel.

And ONS figures show that in comparison with the 2016-based projections, cohort life expectancy at birth is 2.6 years lower for males and 2.7 years lower for females in 2043 than previously projected.

Healthy Life Expectancy, how long we live in good health, has also declined.

For men, the years lived in poorer states of health have increased by almost 6 months since 2009 to 2011 and for women by almost 9 months.

In addition there are stark inequalities – HLE (at birth) across local authority areas with the gap in life expectancy at 10.5 years for males in 2016 to 2018 and 8.4 years for females.

As the RC Paeds & CH has shown last year, infant mortality is on the increase for the first time in a hundred years.

And the increase in child mortality reflects the poverty that children are experiencing across our country. Recent analysis showed that every 1% increase in child poverty is significantly associated with an extra 5.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births.

Analysis shows that whilst the USA and some European countries are seeing this life expectancy slow down, it is worst in the UK. Interestingly, this doesn’t appear to be a developed country phenomenon as Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have all seen continuing increases in life expectancy.

Whilst, as predicted at the time, there is evidence that the 2012 Health & Social Care Act which championed the outsourcing of NHS contracts to the private sector has not only contributed to increases in inequality in access to healthcare but also to inequality in outcomes, it is the impact of austerity and their contribution to widening inequalities in income, wealth and power, that is believed to be contributing to the premature deaths of many of our citizens.

 What you may not be aware of Sir Roger, is the day after the EU Referendum, ONS reported that there had been 52,400 more deaths than the previous year.

This was the 7th largest single year increase in deaths after cholera in 1849. The evidence showing the correlation with austerity, as people with long term care needs were most affected, is compelling. We now have the 10th lowest level of public spending out of 12 developed countries.

 

HEALTH IMPACT ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT

So, Sir Roger, it is imperative that we understand as a matter of urgency, the impact of any proposed trade deal on the health of our nation.

It is quite possible to do. There are well developed methods and tools to enable this.

Indeed, I was involved in such work before I became an MP and the APPG on Health in all Policies which I chair has been undertaking such assessments, for example on the 2015 Welfare Reform & Work Bill.

There is also an expanding and strong evidence base to draw from. For example, the work from the late Harvey Brenner quantified the impacts of unemployment on cardiovascular mortality. He also showed that increasing unemployment was associated with up to a 10-year lag in increased all cause mortality.

In the context of speculation of US trade deals including the NHS, there is also strong evidence of the overwhelmingly negative impacts of our NHS becoming even more privatised on access to healthcare, health outcomes, cost and much more.

 

CONCLUSION

Any Government’s first duty is to protect their citizens. This Government MUST ensure that any proposed deal assesses their health and healthcare impacts.

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