The NHS and Trade Agreements

Thank you for contacting me about the NHS.

Like you, I cherish our National Health Service and the role it plays in ensuring that no-one is denied medical treatment because they cannot afford it. I fully believe in our NHS and its value, and I would like to assure you that the Government have guaranteed that the NHS will always provide healthcare, free at the point of use, wherever and whenever you need it. While private providers do play a small role in improving the provision of health care, let me be abundantly clear: the Government will never privatise the NHS and I would never support it’s sale. The Government has also been repeatedly clear that our NHS will never be on the table in any trade negotiations, a position I fully support.

To have your life saved once by the NHS is a rare privilege. I have had my life saved on two occasions. I have been able to experience first-hand the amazing work done by the NHS. Therefore, this topic is personal to me.

As a steeplechase jockey, I was quite good, but I did not always stay on my horse in a 20-year career. Once, I wandered into A&E with a broken collarbone and four bones sticking out of my shoulder. And I discovered only too often that when you come off a horse at 35 miles per hour the consequences are severe. And the effects are far worse if you get crushed by the falling horse as happened to me at Stratford races 15 years ago. On that occasion, my entire left side was staved in, giving me 14 broken ribs, a kidney cut in half, a perforated spleen and a nasty pneumothorax – when you pop a rib through your lungs. That combination hurt! I was lucky to survive and have a consultant who saved my life that night.

Then during the Budget debate in 2011, I collapsed in the Central Lobby of the House of Commons. It was not George Osborne's Budget that made me ill, but a tumour the size of a small fist in the left part of my brain. I was rushed to St Thomas's hospital in central London where an A&E doctor advised me that I required a craniotomy to remove the tumour from my brain. I had a meningioma – which is a slow growing tumour that starts just inside your skull and presses down upon the brain. It was an extremely frightening experience. Fortunately, thanks to amazing NHS treatment, my tumour was removed completely, with no after effects whatsoever – aside from a big horseshoe shaped scar on my left side behind my hairline.

Illness brings perspective and having twice been seriously ill with potentially life-threatening conditions, I resolved to campaign and fundraise for the NHS locally in Tynedale, to ensure we have as many services as possible delivered, and nationally, from political activism to charity hikes.

Free trade is a driver of economic growth which can raise incomes, create jobs and lift people out of poverty, which is why I am glad that outside of the EU the UK will be able to strike new trade agreements with countries across the globe. But more trade should not come at the expense of the high levels of quality and protection enjoyed in our country.

In the EU trade agreements to which our country is currently party, our NHS is protected by specific exceptions and reservations. The UK will continue to ensure that the NHS is protected in all trade agreements it is party to, whether transitioned from an EU context or as a result of new negotiations. Indeed, outside of the EU, rigorous protections for our NHS will be maintained and included in any future trade agreement to which our country is party.

Following the US state visit last year, I welcomed President Trump’s clarification to his remarks about a potential US-UK trade agreement, in which he stated: “I don’t see it [the NHS] being on the table” in negotiations.

I want to be clear that the NHS will be protected in any future trade agreement with the US. The price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table, and nor will the services the NHS provides.

The NHS is something to be valued and protected which is why I support the commitment to properly funding the NHS. Since 2010 the NHS budget has increased every year, and I am happy to say that despite challenging financial circumstances, the annual budget of the NHS is being increased by £20.5 billion in real terms by 2023/24. I am delighted that the Government is delivering in extra funding for our NHS so we can keep improving services.

I hope this reassures you that all future trade agreements will continue to protect our vital NHS.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.