Downing Street backs Jeremy Hunt in spat with Donald Trump
The US president said the NHS was ‘going broke and not working’.
US President Donald Trump has triggered another extraordinary spat with Theresa May’s Government after claiming the NHS was “going broke and not working”.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister was “proud” of the NHS and its funding was “at a record high”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt also hit back by attacking the US system which leaves millions without adequate health cover.
The US president said “thousands of people are marching” in the UK because of concerns about the state of the NHS.
Mr Trump made the attack as he targeted Democrats pushing for a British-style universal health system in the US.
The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2018
Mr Hunt responded with a tweet of his own, saying no-one protesting about the state of the NHS wanted a US-style system.
“NHS may have challenges but I’m proud to be from the country that invented universal coverage – where all get care no matter the size of their bank balance,” he said.
I may disagree with claims made on that march but not ONE of them wants to live in a system where 28m people have no cover. NHS may have challenges but I’m proud to be from the country that invented universal coverage - where all get care no matter the size of their bank balance https://t.co/YJsKBAHsw7— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) February 5, 2018
Number 10 backed Mr Hunt in the dispute, saying: “Of course he speaks for the Government on these matters.”
Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is proud of having an NHS that is free at the point of delivery.
“NHS funding is at a record high and was prioritised in the budget with an extra £2.8 billion.
“In the recent Commonwealth Fund international survey, the NHS was rated the best in the world for a second time.”
The US president’s comments were also condemned by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the organisers of the pro-NHS demonstration highlighted by Mr Trump.
The president’s comments came shortly after former Ukip leader Nigel Farage appeared on one of Mr Trump’s favourite US TV news shows to talk about the NHS.
Mr Farage’s appearance on Fox And Friends appeared to prompt Mr Trump’s Twitter comment.
In a follow-up message, the president thanked the show for “exposing the truth”.
Thank you to @foxandfriends for exposing the truth. Perhaps that’s why your ratings are soooo much better than your untruthful competition!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2018
Mr Trump’s social media messages came after a crowd of thousands chanting “Save the NHS” descended on Downing Street on Saturday to demand more funding for the health service.
The demonstration, called NHS In Crisis: Fix It Now, was organised by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together.
Responding to Mr Trump’s comments the groups said they were campaigning against moves towards an “expensive, inefficient and unjust” US-style system.
In a message to the president the groups said: “This is what our demonstration was about on Saturday February 3 and tens of thousands of British people want to show their love for the principles of universal and comprehensive care free at the point of use, paid for through general taxation.
“We don’t agree with your divisive and incorrect rhetoric. No thanks.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mr Trump was “wrong” and people were marching because “we love our NHS and hate what the Tories are doing to it”.
Wrong. People were marching because we love our NHS and hate what the Tories are doing to it. Healthcare is a human right. https://t.co/Pmo2xYSqZh— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) February 5, 2018
The public row is the latest controversy in Mr Trump’s relationship with the UK ahead of his visit later this year which is expected to be marked by mass protests.
He had previously caused consternation in Whitehall when he announced on Twitter he would not be attending the opening of the new US embassy in London, saying it was a “bad deal” and he did not like the location of the new building.
It led to speculation he was unhappy after being rebuked by Mrs May for retweeting videos posted by the far-right Britain First group.
However, following talks with Mrs May in Davos, Mr Trump reaffirmed his commitment to the “special relationship” with Britain.