Our doctors and nurses: an electoral bloc, says Hannan

Dan Hannan’s still off on his badmouthing-the-NHS-around-the-world tour, this time telling the Army & Navy Club in Washington that free healthcare (like what we’ve got) represents a ‘huge power grab by the state machine’. Someone give the boy a biscuit.

Hannan obviously departed this planet for MiltonFreedmanWorld long ago. Making sick people better, for no cost at the point of need, means ‘squeezing the private sector’? Forgive me if I don’t care.

He’s also, of course, lying. ‘In Great Britain, he explained, “It is not uncommon to wait six, 10, even 12 months for a knee operation.”‘ OK, let’s have a look at the figures, shall we…

‘The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over the 26 weeks standard at the end of June 2009 was 23’ – NHS inpatient and outpatient waiting times figures, 30 June 2009. That’s twenty-three people in England waiting more than six months for treatment. Twenty-three. In the whole of England.

Does Hannan really believe that American-style ‘give me insurance or give me death’ is a better system? Americans don’t. Watch ‘Sicko‘ if you’ve got time. If you haven’t, watch that episode of Friends where Joey has to audition for a new job while he has a hernia. Or if you’re really in a hurry, why not just enjoy this instructive cartoon. (Dr. Hand is ‘the invisible hand of the free market’, don’t you see.)


Having wilfully misrepresented both our system and the American lack of a system, Hannan went on to insult NHS staff. In his Washington speech he trotted out the old line about the NHS being the world’s third-largest employer (as though it was a bad thing to keep 1.4 million people in work during a recession) – and then on Fox News he described our NHS staff as the ‘electoral bloc’ that makes the NHS impossible to get rid of.

Who can tell whether Dan Hannan really believes this? That the NHS is a Marxist invention; that our medical staff are holding the country to ransom and that, if only they were forbidden to vote, the rest of the UK would be crying out for the Tories to put us out of our misery and send us begging to our employers for medical insurance?

And hey – who cares, right? We know that America doesn’t have the best healthcare system in the world, as the Washington Times outrageously claims. We know that title belongs to…well, probably somewhere in Scandinavia. But we’re proud of our health service because we know that – especially under a Labour government – we will never have to go without vital treatment because we are unemployed; we will never have to pay the full price for medication; if we are poor or with a long-term health condition we will not have to pay for it at all. This is the health service that has saved the lives of my grandparents, my mother, my little sister and me. We know it. And that’s why Dan Hannan is a celebrity in America and a national joke in the UK. Right?

Well…sort of. The thing is, since Obama’s made clear what he thinks of Cameron, you can hardly blame the Tories for wanting to be a bit more popular in America. They love it when Hannan slags off 1.4 million of our hardworking NHS staff on Fox News. They watch it on YouTube. Last time he did it, don’t forget, they rewarded him with a speaking slot at Tory Spring Conference. He’s like that ‘Between The Lines‘ game on Mock The Week, except there’s no need for Hugh Dennis because Hannan says what David Cameron is really thinking.

We cannot trust our National Health Service to these people. Whatever they pretend, they do not believe in it. They think our grandmothers would be better off with BUPA (like theirs are) and our nurses would be better off on the dole.

If you work in the health service – one of those 1.4 million trapping us in this Marxist hell – or if you’re related to someone who does; or if you or your family have ever relied, as most of us do, on our GPs, our hospitals, our paramedics or NHS Direct; I’d say to you: the Tories want to charge £20 for you to see your GP. They want to hand your medical records over to Google. And Hannan wants to sack you. If you’re an electoral bloc, I’d suggest you act like one. And I don’t suggest you vote for that.

ETA – Ellie has drawn my attention to the White House’s ‘Healthcare Reform Reality Check ‘ site, where myths about Obama’s healthcare reforms are busted. Worth a read if you’re on that side of the pond.


18 thoughts on “Our doctors and nurses: an electoral bloc, says Hannan

  1. I lived in the USA , UK and Europe

    Out of all them I have to say my experience of the NHS is the best system in the world.

    Health Care in the USA is one of the main reasons people declare bankruptcy

    If your unfortunate to have an accident or be in an accident in the USA when your a young person and your not insured you will probably spend the rest of your life in debt paying it off.

    I am from Belfast, my daughter is American and when she was born it cost almost $12000

    I don’t know what the NHS is like in England, Scotland or Wales but in N.Ireland I have never had any problems, my family have never had any issues with the NHs.

    I can always see a doctor when I want

    The American system is great if you have the money to afford it. That is if you have a few hundred thousand dollars lying around doing nothing.

    The European system as experienced in Prague was not to far off the American system, they were introducing an employer subsidised health care plan which you have no choice in.

    Rate Your Politician’s

  2. Bravo! A truly wonderful article!

    Another point: if Americans are so keen on entrepreneurship and innovation then why does their system of health insurance discourage risk taking?

    Consider: you have an idea for a business, all other things being equal – would you be more likely or less likely to start that business if you knew you might have to pay out huge sums in the event of accident or illness, either afflicting yourself you your family?

    The standard Hannan/US-right rhetoric of freedom emphasises the freedom of capital, at the expense of the freedom of the individual.

    Also a minor point on your article: it can be argued that the American *healthcare system* is quite good (partly because the US pays a higher portion of its GDP in healthcare than many other countries). The problem is the American *insurance system*, which is utterly broken.

  3. Our beloved health service is an overloaded monolith where the patient comes last. I would welcome a system that enables me to opt out on an insurance style basis.

    If the NHS was put on a true business footing it would be bankrupt within a year.

    1. Well…yes. It’s not a business. It’s a service. We put money in, and healthcare comes out. For everyone, most of whom would not welcome the opportunity to drop out and stitch their own wounds.

  4. I think we have things about right in the UK; the NHS provides good, universal coverage, but there’s the option of taking out additional private healthcare insurance if you have the means to do so. A viable private healthcare system can provide early adopters access to brand new procedures and techniques, and provide clinical data for the NHS to decide whether they’re worthwhile improvements on current practice or not, and whilst said early adopters put up with the early glitches. I wouldn’t want to see either the NHS or UK private healthcare abolished as they both provide a useful service.

  5. You nailed him well. What a pillock. I mean really, what a pillock.

    Doesn’t say much for Dave’s caring conservatism. But I suppose Hannan’s more interested in his media profile in Yankeeland.

  6. I was born in 1951, so I suppose I take the NHS for granted. I believe that when the NHS began unemployment was 1%. OK, times have changed. In 1947 most men worked and most women were housewives once they were married, housewives being the historical term. As I say, times have changed, and so has job opportunity and subsequently NI.
    The NHS has not kept up with the change. When the NI contribution was raised by the present government I was more than happy, in fact, it could have been raised by 2 or 3% if I had known that it was going to where it was meant to go, Public Health and Pensions.
    Don’t get me wrong, as far as I remember it was Conservative governments who stopped NHS optical services, hacked NHS dental services, and closed Mental Hospitals.
    Grace, you know that I am not a political animal, or should that be vegetable. Kerry called me a Libertarian, is that a compliment or an insult. I am just me. I think that the priciple of the NHS is unblemished. I am however incredibly disappointed that this present Labour government did not attempt to bring the NHS into the new millenium. Yes, raise NI contributions, but direct them into rebuilding the NHS, not let them be swallowed up in all the other National expeniture. Undo the damge to optical, dental and mental health which was dealt by the Tories. Undo this ridiculous idea of regional trusts with excessive admin costs, another Tory attempt at privatisation.
    I have said enough. Thanks for listening. Yes, it is RealTimbone.

  7. Good stuff.

    Hannan is simply wrong about the NHS being the world’s third largest employer after the Chinese Army and Indian Railways. He’s forgetting that other bastion of socialism, Wal-Mart, which has 2.1 million employees.

  8. I don’t suppose there is a chance he’d stay in the US is there? Seems very at home in Republican Party Politics.

  9. Really excellent post – should be in a newpaper.

    I sincerely hope that Obama introduces the healthcare reforms that all Americans deserve.

    And well Hannan. What a disgrace. Let him continue to spew out his bile and we can expose him for the nasty tory that he is.

  10. How ridiculous…

    It’s cynical people like you who ruin the politics of this country.

    Firstly, he was extremely complimentary about NHS staff, as he should be:

    “I don’t want to imply that, because we have a bad system, it doesn’t contain good people. A lot of very generous, very patriotic people become doctors, even though they’re working in a system that doesn’t maximise their utility, because they have a calling to help other people.”


    Also, he didn’t say that he wanted a system that didn’t help the poor or the needy – only that the NHS is not the best way. He also criticizes the American system.

    Finally, he’s said all this before in the UK, so don’t accuse him of saying things elsewhere he wouldn’t say here.

    I personally am a great supporter of the NHS, and have relied on it my whole life, as have many members of my family. However, that doesn’t give me, or anyone, the rught to twist the facts.

    By the way, it’s Friedman.

    1. He may have complimented them. He also described them as an electoral bloc. I think that’s pretty cynical.

      He said that the American system is better. I don’t think the American system helps the poor or needy especially well.

      And I don’t think lying about the NHS in the UK is particularly better than doing it abroad.

      I’ll hold my hand up to the typo, though, ta…

  11. 23 people waiting over 6 months? I can tell you why that is…

    ….by the time I had waited 15 months for my knee operation, I had given up and gone private. That of course, ignores the fact that the wait itself had helped much of the damage to my knee, and the muscles surrounding it, to go from a slight problem to permanent damage.

    I guess many people go the same route, and give up on the NHS if they can. Whilst its very good for some things, it doesn’t always have the best outcomes for everything. I for one, can’t run any more.

    As for my insurance costs, my renewal was only marginally higher than the previous year, and still under 500 pounds. Which is under a third of what is paid for the NHS per person.

    Why is it that people on the left aren’t willing to debate anything to do with the NHS, only deify it? It does a lot of important work, but it is also hugely inefficient and doesn’t (i can testify) always give the best result.

    1. While I don’t doubt you had a bad experience and I’m sorry you did, I think it’s extremely unlikely that the length of current waiting-lists is down to patients giving up and going private. I don’t think many people could afford that.

      I’m more than willing to debate the NHS. I think more people should have access to a dentist and I don’t agree with handing over services to Atos Origin. What I’m not willing to do is put up with Tories lying about the NHS to the rest of the world.

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