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The RCN's international work 

Welcome to the RCN's international webpages. The RCN Policy and International Department works closely with members through the RCN International Committee. Find out more about the committee and the RCN's international work (PDF 382 KB)You can also read in more detail more about the Policy and International Department in what we do.

Policy and international news

A Guide to TTIP

What is TTIP?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement that is being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. The stated aims of TTIP are to remove trade barriers to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US. As part of TTIP, public service standards between the US and EU will be harmonised, with a lowest common denominator approach to make trading easier. Without a carve out for health services, TTIP will further open up the NHS to American private businesses. There is very real concern that this will adversely affect patient care and members’ terms and conditions of work.

Follow the link to hear from RCN President, Cecilia Anim and RCN EU/International Adviser, Matthew Hamilton, on why nurses should be aware of TTIP -  https://audioboom.com/channel/theRCN

Why does this affect you?

There are widespread concerns that TTIP is being negotiated in secret, with a purely economic focus and with little attention to the impact on public services. Without knowing what exactly is being negotiated, the general public and public service stakeholders are being kept at a significant disadvantage with little democratic opportunity to challenge the content of the agreement.

The RCN is concerned about the threat TTIP poses to the NHS. The wording of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act opens up the NHS to increased competition from private providers. If the finalised agreement includes a provision for utilising the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedure, this could allow corporations to sue the state if it chose to repeal or introduce new legislation which serves to harm their ability to generate profit.  This could act as a deterrent to governments for adopting progressive legislation
 
The RCN is also concerned about the dangers from TTIP for the wider aspects of health, such as health and safety, food and environmental standards, public health initiatives and costs and standards of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. 

What is the RCN doing about it?

Following last year’s Congress resolution to lobby against the inclusion of health services in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the RCN released a position statement which sets out five priorities for ensuring that health services are removed from TTIP as well as a call for more transparency around the negotiations. The full statement can be viewed here . 

The RCN also recently hosted an interactive seminar on TTIP at its London HQ on Friday 27th March. The purpose of this seminar was to increase awareness on TTIP amongst RCN members and provide attendees with the opportunity to engage directly with a panel of politicians comprised of MEPs from the Conservative, Labour and Green parties as well as a separate panel of health stakeholders including the British Medical Association and the European Public Health Alliance. The discussion focused on the potential impact of the agreement on health service delivery and public health in general.

View The Impact of TTIP on Health Services and Public Health MEP panel and stakeholder panel discussions on YouTube.

The RCN are lobbying both at EU and domestic level to ensure that health services are removed from any future TTIP agreement, contacting MPs and MEPs to set out our concerns and we encourage individual members to do the same. We are also working closely with other EU alliances and UK stakeholders who share similar views to ensure that health services are removed.

For more information about how you can get involved and support our work, please contact international@rcn.org.uk

RCN publishes position statement on Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

The RCN has developed a position statement on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty currently being negotiated between the EU and the US, calling for health services to be removed from any agreement.

Members at RCN Congress 2014 voted overwhelmingly to lobby against the inclusion of health services within TTIP, and the RCN has subsequently identified five key lobbying objectives to ensure that health services are protected from the agreement.

RCN members are concerned that unless health services are removed from any agreement, future governments will be unable to pass laws to remove legislation that encourages the marketisation of health services, or to introduce progressive public health policies.

The position statement calls for greater transparency, a cast-iron guarantee that health services will be exempted and the removal of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism from the agreement.   

Read the RCN's position statement on Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) (PDF 98.0KB) 

RCN campaigns to keep pharmaceuticals under European health commissioner’s control

The RCN has been campaigning to reverse a decision by the incoming President of the EU to move the remit for pharmaceutical policy, medical devices, and health technologies away from the health commissioner to the portfolio of the commissioner for internal market and industry. 

The restructure, announced by President-elect Jean Claude Juncker, caused major controversy in the health community, due to concerns about risks posed by the increasing commercialisation of health services to public health, patient safety, and quality of care.

RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary Dr Peter Carter wrote to UK MEPs sitting on the committees concerned to express serious reservations about the move. The letter, sent in September, pointed out that in the UK, the responsibility for pharmaceutical policy rests with the Secretary of State for Health, and this has proved an effective approach. It called on the MEPs to push for health in all policies to become an economic and legislative reality, and not to allow profit and market considerations to override public health objectives.

European Public Health Alliance, one of the RCN’s key partners, was among 28 organisations which signed an open letter to Juncker objecting to the change and arguing that the proposed shift “sends the wrong signal to European citizens and patients – namely that economic interests come before their health.” 

There are rumours in Brussels that the campaign has proved successful and that Juncker is making a U-turn on the policy.

European Commission consultation on TTIP investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism

The RCN has responded to a consultation on the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism within the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (known as TTIP), which is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.

The ISDS mechanism would be a separate international arbitration panel which could rule on whether future UK domestic legislation is compatible with the terms of the TTIP. There are concerns that if health services are included within the agreement, then the ISDS mechanism could overturn future legislation which is deemed incompatible with TTIP.

In June at RCN Congress, RCN members debated a resolution urging the RCN to "lobby against the inclusion of health services in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership". This resolution received overwhelming support, with more than 97 per cent of members voting in its favour.

During the discussion that accompanied the resolution, RCN members articulated a number of key principles that form the basis for the RCN’s position on TTIP.

Read the RCN’s position on the ISDS mechanism within TTIP (PDF 71.1 KB).

Briefing on the impacts of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive

The RCN has published a briefing on the new EU Tobacco Products Directive. The RCN has a long history of supporting measures to enhance tobacco control and reduce smoking rates and health inequalities, as well as measures to protect children and young people from smoking and from exposure to tobacco promotion.

During the progress of the directive, the RCN actively lobbied MEPs and UK ministers on the content of the directive, and worked closely with the European Public Health Alliance, of which it is a member, to support lobbying in Brussels. While not all of the initial proposals were included in the final directive, the RCN supports the final text of the Tobacco Products Directive and calls on the UK Government to transpose the legislation into national law as soon as possible.

Download the RCN's briefing on the EU Tobacco Products Directive (PDF 104KB).

Consultation on introducing the European Professional Card (EPC)

The RCN has responded to a European Commission consultation on a proposed European Professional Card (EPC). The RCN's view is that this should not come at any extra financial cost to nurses, and the card should be trialled in a time-limited pilot, undertaken initially with a profession for which there are fewer public safety implications than nursing. The card is also being proposed for doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists, engineers, mountain guides and real estate agents.

Read the RCN's full response (PDF 84.4KB)

European manifesto

The RCN has published a manifesto on our priorities in Europe for the next five years. Our members told us we should work on championing safe staffing levels, ensuring an appropriately educated and developed workforce, supporting access to health care services - particularly for vulnerable groups, and promoting healthier lifestyles. The manifesto can be used to lobby local MEP candidates and MEPs on issues important to nursing and patients.

Find out more about the RCN's European election manifesto

Launch of partnership with Zambian Union of Nurses Organisations

The RCN and the Zambian Union of Nurses Organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, formalising a partnership to strengthen the professional function of both organisations. Paula Hancock from the RCN's International Committee joined a videoconference with Zambian and RCN colleagues in January, during which the memorandum was formally signed. Read more.

Contact us

For advice on working and volunteering overseas, and information on coming to work in the UK from abroad, please contact web.enquiries@rcn.org.uk 

For other international enquiries please contact international@rcn.org.uk