THE BLOG
11/07/2018 08:54 BST | Updated 11/07/2018 08:54 BST

When May Meets Trump, She Must Extol The Virtues Of Universal Healthcare

Trump is trying to ignore the voices but a system like our NHS is an idea whose time has come

PA Wire/PA Images

Dear Mrs May,

Many people object to Donald Trump’s visit to the UK for many different reasons, but what we can all agree is that his values and actions are the very opposite of what we believe are right for a safe, fair, humane and sustainable world.  This is exemplified by the different approaches to how we provide for our nations’ health.  The fundamental difference is that we in the UK don’t see health care as a commodity but as a basic human right.  Universal health care, enjoyed by the British people since the inception of the NHS 70 years ago, is still denied to the American people.

When you meet Trump you could take the opportunity to extol the virtues of the NHS as a system that provides universal health care and something that Trump could learn from.

You could contrast the free health care access that all British people have with the fact that in the USA 28 million people are uninsured and millions more are underinsured. You could remind him that health care costs are the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the USA, that even those with insurance struggle to pay healthcare bills. You could point out that the problems with the US system are not only due to private funding but also to private provision of care.

There is little money to be made out of the poorest and sickest, so selection of patients and denial of care become the methods of ensuring profitability. That’s why in the USA the poorer and sicker you are the worse care you get and health inequalities are rampant.

In contrast in the UK no-one goes bankrupt due to health care costs and care is generally distributed equally. 

You could point out that the US spends over $10,000 per person each year in contrast to the UK’s spend of $4,125 per person, yet still does not manage to provide universal health care. while  performing less well on important public health outcomes.

The UK’s life expectancy, infant mortality and maternal mortality – all sensitive indicators of the overall health of a population - are far better than the USA’s. (Life expectancy: UK  81.6 years; USA 78.7 years. Infant mortality: UK 3.8 per 1000 live births; USA 5.9 per 1000 live births. Maternal mortality: UK 8.9 per 100,000 births; USA 25.1 per 100,000 births).

Given this terrible situation it’s understandable that there is rising demand in the USA for universal health care provision. It’s an idea whose time has come – in fact it’s long overdue.

Trump is trying to ignore those voices and one method he uses is to dismiss alternative systems that provide universal healthcare, such as the British NHS.

When tens of thousands of people protested during the NHS winter crisis this February, Donald Trump tweeted that people were marching because our universal health care system was not working. Nothing could be further from the truth. The protest was not against the system of universal health care that the NHS embodies but against your government’s policies of running it down, and privatising it. – making it more like the US system in fact.

The purpose of Trump’s visit is to develop the trading relationship between the UK and the USA.  In February you refused to exclude NHS contracts from future UK-US trade deals. With Brexit looming you may be feeling rather desperate for a deal and be tempted to offer up the NHS on a plate.

We know that US healthcare corporations are very keen to get greater access to the UK health care “market”.  US corporations will be particularly interested in bidding for the US inspired Accountable Care Organisation contracts that your government is planning on putting out to tender – just as soon as you can eliminate all barriers and objections and get that pesky consultation you’ve been forced to agree to out of the way.

But the British people don’t want the US corporate takeover of our NHS and will not be forgiving of any government that allows that. We want an end to privatisation and for our NHS to be fully reinstated as a public service.

This is the message we want you to make loud and clear to Trump so he can be in no doubt that our NHS is not something to be traded.

Dr Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party