Telegraph column claiming ‘NHS is killing us – it is an enemy of Britain’ mocked

'The NHS is a mess? If only I could remember the name of the political party championed by the Telegraph who've been in charge of running it for the last 14 years.'

Writing in the Telegraph this week, columnist Allison Pearson argued that the NHS is so bad, it is killing us and is an ‘enemy of Britain.’

“Being born British should not be a death sentence, but, as long as we go on believing in the National Health Service, it will be,” continued the pro-Brexit columnist, who, in 2019, devoted a column to why she would be voting for the Brexit Party.

In this week’s ‘NHS is killing us’ column, Pearson relayed a number of ‘stats,’ in an attempt to prove how dreadful the health service has become, including a recent British Social Attitudes survey, which showed dissatisfaction with the NHS is “at an all-time high.”

“Who can blame us? The stats are as terrible as they are relentless: more than 150,000 patients were forced to wait more than 24 hours in A&E before getting a hospital bed last year, a tenfold increase on 2019,” the author continued.

She went on to sing the praises of shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who, this week, warned that the NHS will get no extra funding from Labour without “major surgery” or reform, including more use of the private sector. Streeting also insisted he would not be put off by “middle-class lefties” who cry “betrayal” over using the private sector to bring down waiting lists.

“I like the way Streeting calls out those Olympian hypocrites, the “middle-class Lefties” who cry betrayal over “free at the point of use” while paying for private medicine to get quicker treatment themselves,” Pearson wrote.

In her adoration of the Streeting’s comments, the author failed to mention the criticism the shadow health secretary came under from unions and focus groups, who urged him not to “leak out NHS profits,” by ramping up privatisation.

Pearson’s brutal NHS-condemning article was mocked online. Readers pointed to the irony of Brexiteers fuming about the current state of the NHS after the Leave campaign patrolled a battlebus during the run-up to the referendum with large letters reading: “We send the EU £350 million a week let’s fund our NHS instead.”

“Allison Pearson in the Telegraph: The NHS is killing us – it is an enemy of Britain.’ Brexiteers promised that Brexit could save the NHS. So now, after we left the EU, Brexiteers are attacking the NHS, and label the NHS as Britain’s enemy,” posted one bewildered reader.

Another dismayed commentator wrote: “I don’t often say this about people I’ve never met, but this woman is off the scale out of her mind. The NHS care provided to the people I love and have loved is extraordinary. As are the people providing it. Better is always possible. But not like this.”

It is widely acknowledged that Brexit has played a role in the NHS ‘crisis’ by exacerbating shortages among staff. Following the referendum, the number of doctors and nurses entering the health service has declined. The Nuffield Trust estimated that if pre-Brexit recruitment trends would have continued, there would have been 4,000 more doctors, enough to full nearly half of the 9,000 vacancies there was at the end of 2022.

The column also failed to call out how Tory austerity has impacted the NHS. A&E delays can be traced back to David Cameron’s government, when chancellor George Osborne introduced tough austerity measures. Research by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that central government austerity is linked to tens of thousands more deaths than expected.

Readers of Pearson’s column were quick to point out the impact the Conservative government has had on the NHS.

“The NHS is a mess? If only I could remember the name of the political party championed by the Telegraph who’ve been in charge of running it for the last 14 years. Or who, in 2010, having promised no “top down reforms” promptly did just that, or who promised 40 new hospitals by the end of the decade along with the creation of tens of thousands of doctors and nurses? Nevermind, we are going to get all that money being spent on the NHS that was freed up after we left the EU. That’s going to be arriving soon, right?” asked one reader.

“This article from a right-wing paper/reporter. It is their puppet government that has decimated the NHS and the f*****s’ are complaining now,” was another comment.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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