Doctor And NursesWe have recently been contacted by many residents with concerns about the NHS. We support the NHS and are fully behind a universal, “free at the point of care” Health Service, paid for out of taxation.

Many people, including ourselves, have been worried about the impact of TTIP on the NHS. I’m really pleased that Liberal Democrat ministers have listened to our concerns and pushed for reassurances from the EU that TTIP will have no effect on the powers of the NHS at a local level.

We now have a clear guarantee from the EU that member states’ rights to provide public services directly, are enshrined in TTIP explicitly, including cases where outsourcing had previously taken place.

A letter from EU Trade Commissioner Malmstrom specifically mentions the case of the NHS in Britain as an example of the rights of member states that are over and above TTIP.

The letter categorically states that under TTIP, “member states do not have to open public health services to competition from private providers, nor do they have to outsource services to private providers.” Also that “EU member state governments (at all levels, from central government to local authorities) can continue to manage their public services however they see fit.

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has been absolutely clear that protecting the NHS is a top priority. Local GPs – who we put in charge of commissioning services – will continue to decide what is best for patients.

Liberal Democrats have stopped the Conservatives’ privatisation plans and reversed Labour’s policy of allowing private companies to ‘cherry pick’ lucrative NHS contracts and get special favours.  The Labour Government paid private companies £250 million for operations they didn’t perform and in Government, Liberal Democrats have made sure that can never happen again.

There has always been an element of private sector working since the inception of the NHS – GPs are private partnerships working with the NHS to provide a service.  Opticians have provided eye checks & NHS funded glasses from the start of the NHS. So it would be foolish for us to say that there is no role for private sector provision of NHS services.

But we can state without hesitation that we will fight for a free NHS, based on patients’ needs and not on their ability to pay. We’re proud that Liberal Democrat ministers have successfully pushed for extra investment in the NHS. We’ve secured an additional £2bn funding for the NHS in the recent budget beginning in April. We’ve listened to the calls from professionals within the NHS and made an £8 billion a year by 2020’ funding commitment, that we’ve called for the Conservatives and Labour to match.

No one is claiming the NHS is perfect and cannot be improved but, it is providing a wonderful service.  Satisfaction with the NHS is rising, with the second highest level of satisfaction ever recorded and dissatisfaction at an all-time low. We need to build on the successes of the NHS and value the staff who work round the clock to make it what it is.

We dread to think of what our country would be like without the NHS and we will do everything within our power to strengthen this national resource.

Dr Jenny Woods and Meri O’Connell
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidates for Reading East and Reading West.