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Thu 1 October 2020
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Beyond the rhetoric, Stephen Colegrave produces nine examples of the UK Prime Minister’s lack of care for the NHS in its time of greatest need

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Boris Johnson clapped for the NHS on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street and seemed understandably grateful to the NHS nurses who had looked after him in intensive care when he was struck down by COVID-19. But does he and his Government really care about the NHS? The facts speak for themselves.


1. NHS Staff had the Highest Death Rates in Europe and America

If Johnson and his Government really cared about the NHS, they would have protected its nurses, doctors and other staff much better. The data proves that this was not the case.

Amnesty International reported on 13 July that there were more than 540 of the 3000 total global health and social care deaths were from England and Wales. This was higher than anywhere else in Europe. The report was supported by Medscape Data that also showed the UK had more health worker deaths than anywhere else in Europe and more per million of population than in America.

The Government also failed to protect the NHS with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Even in late April, enough PPE was not getting through. On 20 April, Matt Hancock was boasting he had obtained 400,000 gowns from Turkey but when they eventually arrived many were faulty.

If the Government cared about the NHS, they would have commissioned companies with a proper track record of obtaining and manufacturing PPE not the likes of  Luxe Lifestyle Ltd awarded a £25 million contract with no employees or experience and  £18.48 million to  Aventis Solutions Ltd, a recruitment company.


2. Herd Immunity Strategy Swamped the NHS

Johnson talked about ‘Flattening the curve’ of the demand for the NHS, but his actions did not follow this. On 13 March, according to Channel 4’s Dispatches Johnson told the Italian Prime Minister during a phone call that ‘herd immunity’ was the UK Government’s aim.

On the same day,  the Government’s Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance told  BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Government’s approach to tacking COVID-19 had the benefit of creating ‘herd immunity’ across the UK. Johnson knew exactly how fast the infection rate was growing.

At the 2 March COBRA meeting, he was told there were already 11,000 infections and the Imperial College Modelling indicated 250,000 people would die if there was no lockdown and he still risked the NHS by ignoring the facts for another 3 weeks.


3: Selling Off the NHS for a US Trade Deal

Despite continual protestations by Johnson that access to the NHS will not be part of any trade deal with America, on 27 November last year Byline Times revealed that leaked documents from the Department of International Trade’s secret talks with the UK-US Trade & Investment Working Group told a different story.

The documents showed that the “baseline” assumption of “total market access” to the UK. One of these explained that “NHS access to generic drugs…would be a key consideration going forward”, which shows Johnson is happy to give America access to the £20 billion medicines budget, which is rising faster than other healthcare costs at £5% per year. This bill will balloon massively if American big pharmaceutical companies have their way in trade negotiations.

The NHS is very cost-effective in terms of medicines at a £365 per head cost versus £946 in America according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2017.


4: Frontline Nurses Pay

Although giving the nurses who saved his life great praise, Johnson is reluctant to reflect this in their or their colleagues’ pay. Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced that public sector workers would be getting an above inflation pay rises including 3.1% for police officers and 2.8% for doctors and dentists.

However, Nurses were excluded because they had already had an increase with a three-year deal in 2018. He claimed this was an average of 4.4% this year ignoring the fact that most frontline nurses are in Band 5 and will only receive a 1.65% rise. This doesn’t seem very generous especially when a Band 5 salary is only £24,907 a year, rising to £26,970 after two years’ experience and below the average UK salary of £29,600. Members of Parliament had a 3.1% pay rise on 1 April 2020.


5: Threatened to Sack NHS Whistleblowers

Byline Times was contacted by many NHS staff with information about lack of PPE and testing but were afraid to give their names as many had been told they would be sacked if they talked to the Press.

Liberty Investigates revealed an email from the head of intensive care at Royal Free Hospital, Dr Daniel OBE, informing his colleagues at the peak of the pandemic that the trust would “track any leaks to the media” and “offer you a chance to post your P45 on Facebook for all to see”.

This was typical of what was happening throughout the NHS because of pressure from Johnson’s Government and especially the Secretary of Health, Matt Hancock.


6: Lack of Care for Real Patients

When confronted with meeting the parents of a real patient during the General Election he reacted really strangely, refused to look at pictures of four-year-old Jack William-Barr who was forced to sleep on the floor as he had a long wait to be seen at Accident and Emergency and pocketed the phone with the pictures on.

This insight into how much he really cared for patients was then made even worse by heavy-handed attempts to make out the parents had faked the picture and Matt Hancock was despatched to the same hospital the next day and falsely claimed his aide was jostled by reporters.

Not only did Johnson not care, but he was also happy to sanction fake stories disparaging the boy’s parents.


7: NHS Levy for Overseas NHS Staff

Until forced into a U-turn by senior members of his own party, Johnson was happy for foreign-born NHS staff from overseas to pay the fee levied on migrants to pay for the NHS. 

The surcharge was £400 and Johnson said it was needed to pay for the NHS, even though many NHS frontline staff had to pay it. Many NHS doctors and nurses saw this as a betrayal. He would not have changed his mind unless forced to do so by his own party.


8: Lack of NHS Staff Testing

If Johnson really valued the NHS, he would have pushed for more NHS staff testing when he knew infections were rising so fast. However, until 1 April only 15% of testing capacity was available for staff, which meant the maximum capacity was 1690 a day and far fewer tests taken for a workforce of 1.3million.

Meanwhile, Johnson allowed Public Health England to limit testing through a centralised testing regime that cut out local laboratories that were keen and more than capable to help.


9: Not Enough Funding

Johnson has made a series of funding announcements about additional funding for the NHS including £1.8billion pledged on 5 August in his first week in office. That was followed by a promised ‘writing off’ of £13.4 billion of NHS trusts debt and another £3 billion recently to help the NHS prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19.

However, closer scrutiny shows that these figures are not as impressive in reality. For example, the £13.4 billion write off wasn’t really a write-off but actually exchanged debt for equity and replaced it with annual charges of millions of pounds for many hospitals.

The hospital trusts only built up the debt because they had been underfunded and now they have to pay annual charges with no additional overall funding. The newly announced £3 billion includes funding to maintain emergency Nightingale Hospitals until March, and other one-off costs. None of this funding makes up for the estimated £30 billion funding gap from 2014 to 2021.

Since 2010 the UK has consistently fallen behind GDP spending on healthcare versus other developed countries by as much as £3 billon per year. If Johnson really cared about the NHS he would increase its funding to make up this gap and maintain comparable funding with other countries.


These facts speak for themselves. If the founder of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan was still alive today, he definitely would agree that Boris Johnson and his Government don’t care about the NHS. As Bevan said in a speech in Manchester in 1948: “What is Toryism but organised spivvery?” Given the evidence above one could forgive people for thinking that, when it comes to supporting and protecting the NHS, the Conservative Prime Minister is the ultimate ‘spiv’.


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