Image: © Official White House

Did Trump just say he wants to buy the NHS?

Trump suggested that American companies could buy bits of the NHS as part of a post-Brexit trade deal.

Donald Trump, President of the USA, was in Britain this week to visit the Queen. Leaders of different countries visiting each other is generally seen as a good way to build relationships that help countries negotiate mutually beneficial stuff, like not going to war with each other or making trade easier. Many UK politicians are particularly keen to strike a really good trade deal with the US as a post-Brexit replacement for the trade relationship they currently have with the EU.

The US could, for example, cut some of the tariffs (taxes) it charges British businesses to sell their stuff in America. In theory, that would enable British businesses to sell more stuff and make more money, which might result in them hiring more British staff or paying more taxes to the British government.

So some people should have been pleased when Trump announced during his visit that he wanted a new, “phenomenal” trade deal with the UK. Unfortunately, Trump also said he expected the NHS to be part of that deal. He was probably imagining private American healthcare companies (whose main aim would be to make a profit) being allowed to operate or own parts of the nationalised (i.e. owned by the British government) NHS.

It’s not uncommon for for-profit companies to own part or all of a healthcare service. Some people even think it’s preferable because these companies know if they aren’t well-run and results-driven people won’t pay them and they won’t make money. But British people are overwhelmingly against any privatisation of their healthcare service. There was such a big backlash to Trump’s comments that a couple of days later he backpeddalled and said the NHS didn’t need to be part of a trade deal after all.

Read our explainer on: free trade.

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