On 29th October, Parliament had its latest opportunity to put questions to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. As the Spokesperson for the SNP for Health and Social Care, I automatically get two questions to the Secretary of State.
Firstly, I raised the issue how, back in January, the Secretary of State said that he was planning on selling genetic and genomic testing to healthy people for a few hundred pounds, but this has since gone quiet. I asked the Under Secretary of State if NHS England still planned to make money from selling this technology.
Secondly, after I intervened on my Honourable Friend during the NHS debate the previous week to highlight that the Tory Trump Trade Deal will increase drug prices in the UK by at least 2.5%, I asked about the NHS being on the table during trade talks between the UK and the US. The Secretary of State replied saying that the NHS is not on the table, but then why has the UK government had at least five meetings with US Pharmaceutical companies?
In January, the Secretary of State announced that genomic testing would be provided in NHS England to healthy subjects for a few hundred pounds. This ill-advised plan, which would have widened health inequalities, seems to have gone quiet, so can the Minister confirm that the Government no longer plan to sell genetic testing and genomic testing in NHS England?
As the hon. Lady knows, because we have worked together on this agenda, it is never about selling the product; it is about better patient care and ensuring that we get technology to the patient as speedily as we can for better and appropriate diagnosis.
The Secretary of State says that the NHS is not on the table, but President Trump and his trade officials have been very clear that they will seek to more than double drug prices, driving up the bill from £18 billion to £45 billion a year. What discussions is the Secretary of State having, and does he accept that this is why devolved Governments must have input in trade deals?
Secretary of State Matt Hancock
The NHS is not on the table in any trade deal. Medicine pricing and drugs pricing is not on the table in a trade deal. Let me bring the hon. Lady’s attention to this quotation from the former US trade general counsel, Stephen Vaughn, who said that if the UK really is determined to make no changes at all on pharmaceuticals, we can absolutely hold that position and that that has nothing to do with them. Quite right —we do hold that position; they are off the table.