The creeping privatisation of healthcare

Problematic EU policies and the corporate lobby push

Published by: Corporate Europe Observatory, 2nd June 2017

Author: Rachel Tansey

Privatisation in its various guises is “spreading across Europe’s health services like a rash”, writes John Lister of Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together. EU member states’ health systems are broadly split between those based on employment-related health insurance and those financed via general taxation. But both have been subject to political and policy pressures, including from the EU-level, that have created conditions conducive to a growing role for private sector companies in this traditionally public service.


Squeezing profits for shareholders out of health services risks deteriorating working conditions; worse pay, reduced staff levels, greater workloads, more stress, all of which negatively impact on safety and quality of care. Greater health inequality is fostered as private, for-profit providers ‘cherry-pick’ lower-risk and paying patients, whilst higher-risk and poorer patients, or those needing emergency care, remain reliant on under-resourced (thanks to austerity) public health service provision.

A combined set of EU-level pressures appear to have helped create a pro-privatisation environment. Whilst there is no single channel of influence in Brussels of private healthcare interests (e.g. private hospitals, private health insurance, etc), there is evidence of corporate lobbying influence by big business groups, companies and think tanks. This, and a shared underpinning ideology, helps feed the financial and political agenda that encourages more privatised models of healthcare. This article explores the EU policy areas – and the role of corporate lobbying – that help create this pro-privatisation orientation in the field of healthcare: marketisation, trade, public private partnerships, and economic governance.

Read the whole article on CEO’s website here

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