Thinktank critical of NHS Covid response has links to Hancock | Matt Hancock

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Labour has demanded that Matt Hancock return donations from the chair of an influential conservative thinktank after it published a report saying there was “no reason to be grateful” for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

The report published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claims to debunk “myths” including that “the NHS is the star performer of the pandemic” and that it “has done the most amazing job under the most difficult of circumstances”.

Written by Dr Kristian Niemietz, the IEA’s head of political economy, it says: “There is no rational basis for the adulation the NHS is currently receiving, and no reason to be ‘grateful’ for the fact that we have it. It should go without saying that if the UK did not have the NHS it would not have no healthcare system. It would have a different healthcare system.”

After suggesting possible alternative systems used overseas, such as insurance-based models, it adds: “There is no guarantee that this would have served the UK better during the pandemic, but there is certainly no reason to believe that it would have done any worse. There is nothing special about the NHS, neither during this pandemic, nor at any other time.”

Electoral Commission records show that the chair of the IEA board, Neil Record, has donated £32,000 to Hancock. In a letter to the health secretary, the Labour deputy leader, Angela Rayner, urged Hancock to pay back the donations and condemn the “disgraceful attack” on the NHS.

She wrote: “As health secretary it is your job to protect and defend our country’s greatest institution – our national health service – and stand up for our NHS staff who have sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic to save lives and keep us safe. It is therefore deeply concerning that our country’s health secretary is so closely linked to … an organisation which criticises our NHS and is committed to its dismantling, abolition and replacement with a privatised healthcare system.”

The public has shown its appreciation for NHS staff in the pandemic, from the weekly “clap for carers” between March and May last year to making personal protective equipment for frontline workers and delivering meals to hospital staff.

Referencing the “clap for carers”, the IEA report says: “It was soon followed by self-made posters and adverts saying ‘Thank you NHS’ or some variation thereof, usually showing hearts and rainbows drawn around the NHS logo, popping up everywhere. Crises often trigger a collective ‘Rally-Round-the-Flag Effect’, and ‘Rally-Round-the-NHS’ is the modern British version of that.”

The IEA is one of the most politically influential thinktanks in the UK, previously boasting that 14 members of Boris Johnson’s cabinet had been associated with its group’s initiatives.

The report, released on Tuesday, says the NHS was only the star performer “in the way in which for proud parents watching a school performance, their own child will always stand out as the ‘star performer’, even if nobody else sees it that way”.

Niemietz writes: “The claim of this paper is that an effective pandemic response is compatible with a variety of public spending levels, a variety of trade regimes, and a variety of healthcare systems.”

Rayner urged Hancock to take action “to assure NHS staff and the British people that you don’t share the view … that we should not be grateful for the NHS or thank the NHS and its staff for their work during the pandemic”.

The IEA and Department of Health and Social Care have been approached for comment.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Thinktank critical of NHS Covid response has links to Hancock | Matt Hancock

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