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CSP calls on DoH to work with health unions to protect future of NHS

5 July 2005 - 9:10am

The CSP is warning that the Department of Health needs to act now in order to protect the NHS from future challenges under the World Trade Organisation's general agreement on trade and services.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is warning that the National Health Service could be under threat unless the Department of Health adds its weight to that of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which is currently participating in GATS negotiations on behalf of the UK. GATs, emanating from the World Trade Organisation, aims to open up service markets. The paragraph causing alarm among health unions is that defining a 'service'. Representatives strongly believe that under the current definition of the word, the private sector could challenge the funding currently put into the NHS by government, arguing that this creates an unfair playing field. Sarah Lawrence, chair of the CSP industrial relations committee, explained: 'Article 1.3 of the GATS agreement excludes services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority. However to qualify for exclusion a service cannot be supplied on a commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service suppliers. 'The CSP believes that government health policy involving the Concordat with the private sector, the use of the private finance initiative (PFI), and other initiatives involving the private sector in the provision of NHS services could bring the NHS under the purview of GATS. 'We are calling on the DoH to ensure, along with the DTI, that public services, and specifically health, must be exempt from the GATS provisions if disaster is to be avoided.' With a deadline for submission of offers on 31st March and trade negotiators from each member state meeting soon after, the CSP believes that urgent representation is needed by the DoH. In the spirit of partnership working, the CSP is offering to work with the Department and other health unions to avert the threat to the NHS. In a letter to Secretary of State for Health, Alan Milburn, the Society is calling for: assurance that the DoH is aware of the potential seriousness of the GATS negotiations an impact assessment of what the GATS would mean for the NHS and initiatives such as health action zones a guarantee that public health services will not be traded away and put at risk during the forthcoming negotiations. Warren Glover, CSP employment relations and union services officer said: 'We simply cannot be complacent about this issue. If we fail to act now, we run the risk of leaving the NHS to face a potentially damaging trade challenge in the future, which could call into question the continued provision of public health services in the UK.' Ends For further information contact the press office on 0207 306 6628  The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the country's 40,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants.

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