THE failure of the Tories to protect the NHS has left it under threat of being “parcelled up” in trade deals, the SNP has warned.

MP Dr Philippa Whitford, the party’s Westminster health spokesperson, said the US is likely to still seek access for American firms even with President Joe Biden in charge.

She said while the Tories insist the NHS is safe, the failure to take action to protect the health service in legislation “speaks louder than words”.

The warning comes after ­Scotland’s former Chief Medical Officer Sir ­Harry Burns also said the Tories ­voting to remove protection for the NHS in trade negotiations risks it ­being opened up to private firms.

He said last week: “If that happens, an independent Scotland within the EU will sound very appealing to many more voters.”

Earlier this month Conservative MPs – including all six of the ­party’s Scottish MPs – voted down a House of Lords amendment to the UK Government’s trade bill,to ­prevent the NHS being sold off or undermined by any trade deals with other countries.

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The bill will return to the House of Lords this week under the “ping-pong” process, where it is possible the amendment could be reinstated – but it is unlikely to be eventually passed.

Whitford said the Health and ­Social Care Act in England in 2012 had already led to an increase in health service contracts being put out to tender south of the Border.

“There are already some American related or UK branches of American companies that are involved in the NHS in England,” she said. ­“Obviously the fear is, if you had a trade deal with America there would be a very open and aggressive bidding to run services here.”

Following the House of Commons vote, UK Trade Minister Greg Hands claimed there was no need for the legislation as protecting the NHS is “already a top priority” in negotiations.

“The idea that we would now seek to sell off the NHS to foreign ­corporations is, frankly, offensive and absurd,” he added.

“The NHS is not on the table. The NHS is not and never will be for sale.”

But Whitford said: “So much as they say the NHS is safe in our hands, it is a bit like food standards or environmental standards – actions speak louder than words.”

In 2019, Donald Trump sparked a major political row when he said the NHS would form part of negotiations over a possible trade deal between the UK and the US.

Whitford said it was hard to know what the approach of Biden would be, although she said he would probably be “more sensible”.

She added: “Equally when it comes to a trade deal he will still be wanting a good deal for America and he will be wanting access for American ­companies for it to go ahead.”

She accused the Tories of ­“corruption and cronyism” over handing out Covid contracts worth billions of pounds to private firms with links to the party.

And the UK Government setting up private sector Covid-19 swab testing centres run by Lighthouse Labs – including in Glasgow – showed how Scotland can be affected, despite health being devolved, she said.

“The devolved governments had no control over whether they wanted to do that,” she said.

“Whereas if in England they had expanded NHS labs to do the Covid testing, we would have had a ­Barnett [funding] Consequential and we could have chosen how we did it.

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“In an ideal world, even though you might have recruited capacity from universities, research institutes and even private business, you would have it led by the NHS. I think the Lighthouse Labs will be around a long time and they have in essence set up a parallel system of laboratory testing which will probably then try to compete with the NHS.”

She added: “The threat is parcelling up access to the entire UK NHS will be the offer in a trade deal.

“A lot of it will be these kind of slow things undermining it at the edges.”

Johnbosco Nwogbo, of anti-privatisation group We Own It, said Conservative MPs were trying to “steamroll” a trade bill that offers no protection for the NHS.

He added: “By failing to protect our NHS from trade deals, now they’re putting the NHS in all four nations of the UK under threat. Every Conservative MP that voted against the NHS protection amendment should hang their head in shame.”