Ladies and Gentlemen
12 months ago, in this very hall I delivered my first national conference speech as your spokesman for health.
After my speech some media commentators moaned because they found me a bit… shouty.
Well, 12 months ago, the NHS was under threat from the Westminster bubble, but now the NHS is facing an even bigger threat from the European Union, and whilst that remains the case let me assure you… I will not stop being shouty!
And I say to the media and anyone else that doesn’t like it - deal with it. This is about the NHS, it is about the people of this country for whom the NHS is a lifeline, and I’m not going to be quiet about it!
There are many areas of the NHS that are affected by our full membership of the EU.
There are reams of rules, regulations and directives that defy logic and leave clinicians and managers in a head-spin and the pending TTIP trade deal threatens the very fabric and principles that the NHS is built upon.
There are also many unplanned, unintended consequences of wider EU policies that add pressure and confusion to the health service.
The most fundamental of these is uncontrolled immigration. We hear how there are not enough nurses and doctors in the NHS. It takes years to train for these professions, but how can the government know how many doctors the NHS will need in 7 years’ time, when they don’t know how many people will be living in the country in 7 weeks’ time?
It’s no surprise we need so many nurses from overseas at short notice when we can’t predict how many patients there may be in 3 months’ time, let alone in the 3 years it takes to train a nurse.
We can’t plan for the amount of beds, ambulances, medical equipment, drugs or midwives we might need because from one day to the next we cannot tell how many people will arrive here to live.
No establishment can plan properly under these circumstances, and what is particularly worrying about the NHS not being able to plan properly is that the results can literally be the difference between life and death.
There are of course, many specific regulations and initiatives that threaten the structure and efficacy of our NHS, I have nowhere near enough time to go through them all, that’s a whole conference in itself, but I will just mention a couple before going on to talk about the TTIP Agreement.
The Working Time Directive is a health and safety initiative that on the surface may appear reasonable and helpful, but in practice is restrictive and unwelcomed by many in the NHS.
Ipsos Mori and the General Medical Council have reported negative effects on medical training and on health services throughout Europe.
But it is not just the future quality of training that is being effected by the EU, it is also the future quality of treatment.
From next year medical researchers will be blocked from using historical patient data records for research purposes. Cancer Research UK have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the new regulations claiming that many lives will be lost as a result.
It is vital for those looking for new cures and treatments to be able to track the medical history and developments in people, and this regulation will stop that.
Last year I spoke about the desperate case of Ashya King, the little boy that couldn’t get NHS treatment for his brain tumour. Today I have to tell you about the EU’s ‘Medicine for Children’ regulation.
It prohibits medical trials being carried out on children. The Institute of cancer research and other major cancer charities oppose the regulation and health experts say it has resulted in many unnecessary child deaths throughout Europe because half of all new cancer drugs developed between 2007-14 have not been tested on children and therefore cannot be licenced for use on children.
How can the EU in all conscience say to the family of a dying child that they cannot have a new drug? One that may cure them or help them die without pain or fear? Giving terminally ill children access to new treatments and drugs is vital in the fight against childhood cancer. It is barbaric to deny them an opportunity to extend their lives, or maybe even the possibility to cure them, simply because of a European Union regulation.
It must be stopped and if we leave the EU just so we can ditch that regulation alone – it’s worth it.
Now before I go on to the biggest threat to our NHS I want to dispel a myth about the EU.
Many Europhiles say that without the freedom of movement that we have in the EU, our NHS would grind to a halt.
But despite the propaganda, controlling immigration will not damage the NHS.
Whilst we have a system where new nurses have to have a university degree we will never be able to provide the numbers of nurses the NHS needs.
Why do those that leave school without A-levels have to do an access course to learn how to write essays, before they get anywhere near to a patient who may need a glass of water, or help being fed a meal, or someone who needs comfort and reassurance?
We are not training enough, and it is not that there are too few people wanting to become nurses, it’s because we refuse to accept that not all those entering the nursing profession need a university degree.
Commenting on the need for more UK training, the head of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter, points out that last year there were 57,000 applicants for 20,000 nurse training posts.
He said it was a matter of huge regret that thousands of people in the four countries of the UK who want to train as nurses are being turned away, while we're going off and raiding the often impoverished workforce of other countries.
Let us have a system where those that excel academically can achieve the degree they aspire too, that should be applauded, but let us also encourage and enthuse those who see nursing as a vocation – let us see the return of the State Enrolled Nurse.
All of the above are about specific issues within the health service, how it delivers what we want it to deliver.
But the biggest threat the EU poses to the NHS is TTIP, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, that Brussels want to sign with the USA.
It would not only change how services are delivered, but go further, it would change WHY services are delivered.
It would take us from a health service motivated by delivering the best for patients, to a system motivated by delivering the best private profit.
We have the most established healthcare system in the world, nearly 70 years-old, America doesn’t have one at all, and the confusing ObamaCare is barely 70 days-old.
We should not be giving other EU nations the power to influence our health services, let alone allow investors from a country where some people have to sell their homes in order to get life-saving treatment.
The Tories say there is no need to exempt the NHS from TTIP because it is not at risk.
Labour MPs say they want exemptions, yet their own MEP's are helping to push the agreement through the committee stages in the European Parliament.
TTIP will allow multi-national companies to sue national governments if they introduce policies that harm their investments. Does that not seem a bit topsy-turvy? Shouldn’t it be the other way round, aren’t corporations supposed to serve us, rather than us serve them? Surely a private company should be fitting into our rules, not us fitting into theirs.
If Labour are serious about protecting the NHS they should stop their MEPs helping the agreement go through.
And I say to David Cameron: If you are sure TTIP won’t involve the NHS, why not introduce legislation to stop it. The legislation may not be needed as far as you are concerned, but it is needed as far as the public are concerned, because Mr Cameron, WE DON’T TRUST YOU.
Why don’t we trust him?
Let me share with you a little known line from the EU, I found it in the EU document library, it’s from June of this year, in a document specifically about TTIP, it says:
The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all education, health or social services which receive public funding or state support in any form.
What do you say now Cameron? Get out of that.
Last year I produced a letter from Jeremy Corbyn's boss, Len Mclusky. In it he asked us to support UNITE in their fight against TTIP. I responded, I said we would stand side by side with them in this fight. Come on Len, I am still waiting for your response!!
Presiding over so much infighting, bitterness and backstabbing, before long the Labour party will become less the Jeremy Corbyn show and more the Jeremy Kyle show.
If you want people to believe your party cares about the British people and the NHS, you MUST advocate leaving the EU.
The UK needs to be able to run its own NHS, full stop.
I am livid that they are systematically ruining our country’s proudest achievement, and now want to sell it off to the highest bidder.
I am angry for the elderly who have paid-in all their lives only to see the EU decimate the care available to them, angry for the seriously ill that will suffer longer because of EU restrictions on research, angry and upset for the children whose lives will be blighted by the EU rules against medicine trials, angry for every bit of interference from the EU into our beloved and vital NHS.
So let me make this pledge to you, between now and the referendum, I will fight tooth and nail to make sure the public know the hugely damaging effect the EU is having on our NHS and therefore our health, and the massive dangers it faces if we stay in the EU.
I will do everything I can to ensure the public know we have to leave the EU if we believe in the NHS.
And don’t forget… I can be shouty, so in case you haven’t heard, we believe in Britain, we believe in the NHS.