It seems Matt Hancock is under pressure to return donations from a think tank that criticised the NHS as “nothing special” and unworthy of the “adulation” it has received during the pandemic.
Since becoming an MP, the health secretary has received £32,000 from the chairman of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a right-wing body that has called for the NHS to be replaced with a privatised healthcare system. An IEA report said the idea that the NHS has done exceptionally well during challenging circumstances was “a false narrative”.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, wrote to Mr Hancock urging him to return the nine donations he has received from Neil Record, the IEA’s chairman. “This disgraceful attack on our NHS comes in the middle of a deadly global pandemic after our NHS staff have worked round the clock for almost a year” she wrote.
“It is therefore deeply concerning that our country’s health secretary is so closely linked to, and has been bankrolled by, an organisation which criticises our NHS and is committed to its dismantling, abolition and replacement with a privatised healthcare system”. She said Hancock should return the donations, distance himself from the think tank and publicly condemn the report “in the strongest terms”.
Asked about the report, Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s press secretary, said “I don’t think that the government is in the business of linking any money and the conclusions of reports. Think tanks can conclude whatever they think is a right and accurate reflection of the work they’ve done”.
Asked whether the prime minister agreed with its findings, Stratton said that he had consistently praised the NHS for its “sterling work”. “He himself recovered from Covid and was treated in hospital when he was incredibly unwell. He remains grateful to the people who nursed him then,” she said.
The IEA report, written by Kristian Niemietz, said those arguing that the NHS “has been the star performer of the pandemic, and that we should be more grateful than ever for having it” were guilty of “confirmation bias”.
It said the countries that had performed best in the pandemic, including Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, did not have national health systems similar to the NHS. It concluded “There is nothing special about the NHS, neither during this pandemic, nor at any other time”.
Don’t know about these IEA nerds, but I find it offensive to be told there is nothing special about the NHS. I’ve had my life saved twice by the NHS, from extreme medical danger. Just try telling me the Walton Centre isn’t special!
Nor the CCU at Southport Hospital! Can’t recall ever having read about the IEA saving lives?