“How dare you blame the NHS”: Right-wing press stoops to new low blaming health service for Covid failings

A furious backlash has emerged over the Tory media’s reproach of the NHS for the country's Covid shortcomings.

The right-wing media has sunk to a new low, pinning the blame on the NHS for the epic failings of Britain’s response to the pandemic.

In what’s been described as an “editorial attack against the NHS”, The Daily Telegraph ran an article that blames the NHS as to how and why Britain – with one of the highest death rates in the world – fared much worse than other countries in managing the health crisis.

Attempts to sow division between doctors and nurses

The Telegraph’s article follows a report in the Daily Mail, that points to GPs allegedly earning more than Boris Johnson. The story created a backlash, condemned for being an attempt by the Mail to “sow division between doctors and nurses” and to “distract us from a government trying for force a pay cut on nurses.”

A year ago, narratives of the NHS at “breaking point” with a shortage of ventilators, ICU beds and PPE, alongside scarcities of staffing capacity, were heavily documented in the media, acting as fodder to promote the message to “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.”

Despite the setbacks, the NHS rose to the challenge. The right-wing press were keen to publicise the valiant work of the NHS, with the likes of the Daily Mail running frontpage headlines reading “Boris: The NHS Saved My Life,” and “That’s a Jab Well Done”.

Tory press less favourable towards the NHS

As lockdown measures begin to be lifted and the UK vaccine programme is hailed as a “stunning success” and – by the Prime Minister – as an “extraordinary feat”, the right-wing press is emerging as less favourable towards the NHS, with some commentators blaming the national health service the country’s Covid failings.

One such commentator is Charles Moore, Baron Moore of Etchingham, and former editor of The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator and The Sunday Telegraph. Moore still writes for all three publications.

As well as being a colleague in the Tory press, Charles Moore is also a friend of Boris Johnson’s. The former Daily and Sunday Telegraph editor was even tipped as Johnson’s favoured candidate to take over the role of BBC chairman. However, in October 2020, Moore reportedly ruled himself out of running for the role for “family reasons.”  

In a recent article for The Telegraph titled ‘After a year of Covid, we have seen the worse but also celebrated the very best’ Moore dissects what the country has learnt since last March and where our so-called ‘strengths and weaknesses’ lie.

The NHS is considered – by Moore – as one of the country’s weaknesses.

“We clapped for our NHS at first, and naturally wanted to salute doctors, nurses, paramedics,” writes Moore.

“But it was the NHS, as a lumbering, unresponsive system, which caused the panic about beds and this the sudden extremities of lockdown. It was also the NHS, instinctively hostile to provision outside its control, which left care homes exposed. Politicians of both parties complacently sidestep such problems by promoting NHS worship,” the Baron continued.

A media at the “bottom of the barrel”

Moore’s deleterious remarks about the NHS has been racked with criticism, crafting a raft of condemnation at the right-wing press, which has been labelled as being at “bottom of the barrel.”

Dr Samantha Ratt-Rawden, a senior intensive care registrar with the NHS, said she was “absolutely gutted” to see the comments in The Telegraph.

“How dare you blame the NHS and its staff. We worked ourselves into the ground and gave everything we could. But it was political decisions that cost lives. That will haunt us forever,” Dr Ratt-Rawden tweeted.

NHS Million, a group run by NHS staff that show ongoing support to all NHS staff across the UK who care for a million patients every day, shared their dismay over The Telegraph article, saying they are “beyond devastated.”

“NHS staff should not have had to wake up to this this morning. Shameful from The Telegraph. We won’t stand for it,” NHS Million commented.

Dave Rogers, CEO of Midland Mencap, a progressive citizen-influenced organisation, voiced his dismay, tweeting: “Oh my word, that’s the Covid inquiry sorted, it was the NHS’s fault.”

Carolynn Scrimgeour, candidate for Scottish Greens West of Scotland and NHS consultant clinical oncologist, shared her appraisal of Britain’s Covid-19 failings, commenting: “The government locked down too late. The government did not take Covid seriously. The government told us to “eat out to help out” and that foreign holidays were fine.

“Never forget who’s responsible,” Scrimgeour added.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a freelance journalist and columnist for Left Foot Forward.

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