Across the Atlantic, battle rages over value of NHS

Prime Minister and Health Secretary leap to defence of health service after attacks by Obama's opponents

Gordon Brown has broken his diplomatic silence over the health reform row dominating American politics to speak out in defence of the National Health Service.

The NHS has been caught in the crossfire as Republican critics of President Barack Obama's plans claimed that Britain's "socialised" rationed care to the elderly and left the sick languishing on waiting-lists.

Ministers had been reluctant until yesterday to become involved in a controversy splitting public opinion in the US. They did not mount their defence of the NHS against claims it is "Orwellian" and "downright evil" through the conventional means of speeches or statements, but to add their support to a campaign standing up for the service. The sheer number of messages added to the welovetheNHS campaign on the social networking site Twitter, launched to counter the US allegations, crashed part of the site yesterday.

Among the comments was one from Downing Street stating: "PM: NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death. Thanks for always being there." Mrs Brown, who is on holiday with her husband in the Lake District, added: "welovetheNHS – more than words can say."

The Health Secretary also added a message via Downing Street. It read: "Andy Burnham: Over the moon about strong support for NHS – an institution I will defend to my dying day, 2nd only to Everton FC."

Mr Burnham explained yesterday that it was his job to defence the service when it faced criticism that was "simply untrue".

The Department of Health took the unusual step yesterday of launching a point-by-point rebuttal of misconceptions about the NHS circulating in the US – each followed with the words: "Not true." A DoH spokeswoman told the Associated Press: "People have been saying some untruths in the States. There's been all these ridiculous claims made by the American health lobby about Obama's health care plan and they've used the NHS as an example. A lot of it has been untrue."

Claims being disputed by the DoH include the assertion that patients aged over 59 are denied heart repairs and women under 25 are not allowed screening for breast cancer.

David Cameron, the Tory leader, has also defended the service, saying he believed in it "100 per cent", adding: "It's incredibly important to me and my family."

President Obama has dispatched Democrat senators on a series of town hall meetings to win support for his health plans. They have found deep hostility to proposed reforms. A man was in custody yesterday after holding a sign reading "Death to Obama" outside a town hall meeting on the subject in Maryland.

The former Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has called President Obama's health plan "downright evil", claiming it would create a "death panel" denying care to the neediest Americans.

A Republican National Committee advertisement claimed that "individuals lose their right to make their own health care choices" in Britain. Another launched this month by the anti-tax group Club for Growth claimed that UK civil servants had calculated six months of life to be worth £14,000.

"Under their socialized system, if your treatment costs more, you're out of luck," it claimed as footage of an elderly man weeping at a woman's bedside alternate with shots of the Union Jack and Big Ben.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa told a local radio station last week that "countries that have government-run health care" would not have given Senator Edward Kennedy, who suffers from a brain tumour, the same standard of care as in the US because he is too old. Another Republican, Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia, said Britain and Canada "don't have the appreciation of life as we do in our society, evidently".

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas