Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has written to Simon Stevens, head of NHS England asking him to explain his involvement in trade lobbying activities on behalf of private US healthcare while he was a senior executive at UnitedHealth.
The union is also calling on Mr Stevens to make clear whether he supports the inclusion of the NHS in the trade deal called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) or whether he believes that David Cameron should use his veto to deliver a robust carve-out and protect the health service.
Simon Stevens was a senior executive and board member of UnitedHealth Group for ten years from 2004 until 2014. He became President of Global Health in 2009.
UnitedHealth appears to have been a founding member of the Alliance for Healthcare Competitiveness (AHC), a US healthcare lobby group promoting free trade. The AHC have been lobbying hard to keep healthcare in the EU-US trade deal called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) (see notes to editors).
In a letter to Mr Stevens, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail writes: “While you were President of Global Health, UnitedHealth appears to have been a founding member of the Alliance for Healthcare Competitiveness (AHC), a US healthcare lobby group promoting free trade. Indeed you personally promoted the AHC subsequently in the media.
“You are now head of NHS England, a state-owned and state-supported enterprise. Yet it is clear that the AHC, an organisation that you acted as a spokesperson for, views healthcare providers like the NHS as an unwanted ‘market distortion’.
“I would be very grateful if you could explain what your involvement was in launching and supporting the AHC?
“Could you also clarify whether or not you support the AHC's current position on the EU-US trade deal known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? In particular, do you agree with their position that the NHS should fall into the scope of the agreement, so that US investors like UnitedHealth can have new rights to sue the UK government if it takes privatised NHS services back into public hands?
“Thousands of our members have genuine concerns that this trade deal will mean that the Government's current policy of giving private companies contracts to run vital NHS services could become impossible to reverse. I think they have a right to know exactly where you stand as the head of the NHS.”
Legal advice obtained by Unite is clear that the NHS is included in the trade deal called TTIP. The advice from an expert in EU law and healthcare services has confirmed that there are clear dangers arising from TTIP that will impact the NHS unless David Cameron uses his veto to deliver a robust carve-out and protect the health service.
TTIP is being negotiated behind closed doors, between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the United States. It is the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and threatens to make privatisation of the NHS irreversible by giving the profits of corporations precedence over national lawmakers. TTIP would grant American multinationals, or any firm with American investors, the power to sue the government if it ever attempted to take privatised health services back into public ownership.
Contact: Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315
Notes to editors
In this 2011 news article Simon Stevens served as a spokesperson for AHC in his capacity as a UnitedHealth Group executive.
Link to AHC paper showing its opposition an NHS preferred provider policy http://healthcare-competitiveness.com/wp-content/uploads/AHC_Trade_Policy_Proposal.pdf