It is great to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I thank my hon. Friend Mike Hill for securing this important debate. For people in my constituency, this issue is particularly timely. Last month, reports emerged that the Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had begun to advertise a price list for operations that were previously free on the NHS. It offered 71 costly private operations, including vital procedures such as hip and knee replacements at over £18,000, cataracts at £2,368 and hernias at just under £8,000.
The fees were introduced as a result of Tory cuts, which are forcing the NHS to ration services that were once free at the point of use. The Opposition have consistently warned that such measures are leading to the gradual privatisation of NHS services, with vulnerable patients potentially forced to pay extortionate fees to cover medical costs. The pricing list was the first example of an NHS trust openly advertising private medical services in such a way. I was shocked to see the privatisation of our NHS advertised brazenly to my constituents, with the sick and vulnerable exploited for profit. It is an affront to the founding principles of our national health service.
I am pleased that, as a result of pressure from me, my colleagues and local campaign groups, the trust decided to pause and review the scheme. However, this is just a temporary victory, and there is no time for complacency. As we consider the bigger picture of our future trading relationships, there are great battles to be fought to defend our NHS from private interests.
In the same month that the price list was published, Donald Trump was invited to the UK at the behest of the Tory Government. Speaking at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister, he said the national health service would form part of negotiations over a possible future trade deal between the UK and the United States. To use his exact words:
“When you’re dealing in trade, everything is on the table.”
What an appalling thought—that our NHS is reduced to a mere bargaining chip in negotiations.
The Tory leadership candidates are too cowardly to stand up to Donald Trump. Last week, they refused to call his vile, bigoted attack on Ilhan Omar what it was: racism. That is not good enough. If the Tories will not stand up to Trump’s racism, how can they be expected to stand up to him in trade negotiations? How can they be expected to stand up for the NHS? They cannot.
After he founded the NHS, Nye Bevan said of Great Britain:
“We now have the moral leadership of the world”.
Today it does not feel like this country has any moral leadership at all. As always, we cannot trust the Tories with our NHS.