If you had still had any illusions that our NHS would survive Brexit, these will have been dispelled by the statement of Trump’s ambassador that, “The US will want business access to the NHS in any trade deal”. Indeed, some have speculated that access to the NHS, along with the rest of the economy, is the real reason behind Trump’s visit.
This should come as no surprise, for the “Stronger In” campaign always warned that the country could have Brexit or the NHS, but not both.
The NHS has long been admired by many Americans for its efficiency compared to their own expensive system, at the same time as our own politicians paradoxically sought to emulate the US model by introducing market forces and business practices.
The problem posed by copying Trump’s way of doing things is that we risk losing the close cooperation with Europe that has brought us so much success. A huge threat to both the staffing of the health service and Britain’s leading role in research, is the abolition of free movement. Free movement has been the catalyst for medical advance, enabling the sharing of experience and knowledge as researchers move seamlessly between countries. And on hospital wards all over the country, skilled nurses from many European countries have played a vital role.
Trump is the antithesis of all this, building walls and promoting isolation. The ideology of sheltering behind barriers and looking after one’s own interests first is surely the opposite of what underlies medicine, caring for others less fortunate than ourselves. Nigel Farage, who says he wants an insurance based system, stands beside Trump in one corner, our publicly funded NHS is in the other.
Of course there is much to admire about America, the land of the free, a place from where I have purchased some excellent guitars and many other products, though this is a lot pricier than it used to be due to the weaker pound following the referendum. America minus Trump would be even better, and a good relationship with the country from our position of strength in Europe better still.
But the NHS is a no-go area. We must signal strongly that it is not up for sale.
* John King is a retired doctor and Remain campaigner.