Will Brexit make privatisation of the NHS more likely?

PUBLISHED: 08:33 18 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:33 18 February 2017

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There have been suggestions that a future trade-deal between Britain and America – which seems to be one of the immediate upshots of Brexit – could leave the NHS vulnerable to privatisation.

Perhaps it could, depending on the attitude of Theresa May’s government within the negotiations, but there’s also an argument that remaining within the EU will encourage more private healthcare providers into the NHS.

Last April, an EU directive was introduced which means commissioners must signal to the market when any NHS contract is being tendered. So where contracts have traditionally been rolled over to the incumbent NHS trust, the commissioner must now invite others to express an interest.

At the moment, this is more of a bureaucratic headache for NHS leaders, as there are relatively few private providers which are currently interested in deliver the complexity of services required. But this may change over time, and if it does, the NHS would be required to consider private sector bidders equally.

There aren’t many upsides on Brexit for the NHS, but no longer needing to satisfy these rules would be one. Ultimately though, there are still far too many uncertainties in play to make a serious judgement on this question, as it will depend on the attitude our government takes, influenced of course by the electorate.

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