Under a potential trade deal with the US, NHS patient information would be taken by US technology companies to develop medical treatments that would then be sold back to the NHS. This exploitation of NHS patient information is one of the possible outcomes of a Conservative-led post-Brexit deal with Trump’s US.
Labour has already made its position clear, saying it believes no one should “profiteer from the NHS”.
As The Canary reported, documents released by Jeremy Corbyn showed negotiations for a steep increase in drug prices for the NHS are at an “advanced stage”.
But these documents aren’t just about price increases. They are about the flow of information from the UK to the US. Because the documents show “the free flow of data is a top priority” for the US in trade talks with the UK. And this “free flow of data” could result in US companies getting unlimited access to UK patient health information.
The NHS would no longer have permission to use its own information unless it paid to do so. Otherwise it could be sued. Accounting firm EY has already valued this information at £10bn a year.
Profiteering from health
Dr Rachel Clarke saw this latest revelation as a profit making scheme at the expense of NHS patients:
US trade negotiators want NHS data: “Swept back to servers in America & mined by Silicon Valley algorithms to develop new diagnostic tools that would then be sold back to the NHS.”
This is Trump targeting NHS patient records – us – for profit. https://t.co/DF3lvdpC3z
— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) December 2, 2019
Author and activist Alex Nunns was scathing of journalists who didn’t take Corbyn’s revelations seriously enough:
Oh you know those leaked Trump trade talks that Jeremy Corbyn released last week and most journos said “no big deal”?
Well they reveal the US is demanding access to your NHS health records, worth £10 billion a year to US tech companies. No biggie.https://t.co/n9K9dLwJCD
— Alex Nunns (@alexnunns) December 2, 2019
Relaxing the rules when it suits
As “the free flow of data is a top priority” for the US, it wants local data restrictions lifted so UK data can be stored abroad.
Additionally, negotiators urged UK officials to move to the more liberal Asia’s Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) as opposed to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules. The GDPR is “one of the toughest online privacy rules in the world”, and it’s legally binding. But the US believes the CBPR is better for business.
Some people online see this as an invasion of privacy and resent companies using their data in this way:
This is potentially a hideous invasion of privacy and a threat to everyone in the UK. An extremely dangerous idea.
— Dave Berkeley (@daveberkeleyuk) December 2, 2019
Under the GDPR, I do not consent to my data being used in this way!
I want the US trade negotiators to go to hell in a blazing handcart!
— 🌑 Prof Andy Hill CNSP MCP BSc Ph.D (@Andy_Hill_) December 2, 2019
What can be done?
If this agreement becomes reality, it could mean UK patient information would become the property of US corporations. These corporations could then use it for profit. But of course, this doesn’t have to happen. Labour has made its position clear, and it’s the polar opposite of the Conservative position. On 12 December, British people have the power to stop this Tory nightmare from ever becoming a reality.
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