Donald Trump attacks the UK's health service, and Britain hits back

Trump: It's broke and not working

By JAMES MASTERS, CNN
Leon Neal/Getty Images

UK Prime Minister Theresa May

LONDON (CNN) - Donald Trump's habit of testing the US relationship with Britain took a new turn Monday when he attacked the UK's National Health Service, claiming it is "going broke and not working."

The US President hit out on Twitter minutes after a segment aired on Fox News that highlighted winter strains on the UK health care system. Trump accused Democrats of pushing a similar universal healthcare system for the US.

"The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks," Trump wrote.

Asked about the tweet, a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she is "proud" of Britain's health care system.

"The prime minister is proud of having an NHS that is free at the point of delivery," the spokesperson said, adding that NHS funding is "at a record high" and was prioritized in the budget with an extra £2.8 billion.

Trump also drew swift condemnation from the Royal College of General Practitioners and Britain's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has been under fire for the government's handling of a winter health crisis that prompted a protest march in London at the weekend.

Hunt said he was "proud" of Britain's universal coverage, which allows patients free healthcare at the point of access.

"I may disagree with claims made on that march but not ONE of them wants to live in a system where 28m people have no cover," he tweeted, referring to the 28 million people in the US who lack health insurance.

"NHS may have challenges but I'm proud to be from the country that invented universal coverage -- where all get care no matter the size of their bank balance."

Trump, whose relationship with Britain and May has been punctuated by Twitter tussles, was also criticized by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn took umbrage with Trump's comments on the purpose of Saturday's march in support of the NHS. "Wrong. People were marching because we love our NHS and hate what the Tories are doing to it," Corbyn said, using a colloquialism for the Conservative Party. "Healthcare is a human right."

It is not the first time Trump has caused anger in the UK with his tweets.

Last month, Trump said he would apologize for retweeting a series of posts by a UK far-right group, saying he didn't know who they were at the time.

The tweets caused an uproar in late 2017, and sparked a rare rebuke from the British government, with a spokesman for May saying Trump was "wrong" to share the videos.

Trump has also been involved in a number of well documented spats with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has been outspoken in his opposition to the US President being afforded a State Visit.

Last month, Khan said Trump had "got the message" from Londoners after canceling his anticipated working visit to the city.

Any visit to the UK is expected to be met with widespread protests.

NHS problems

Trump's comments about the NHS highlight a sensitive subject in the UK -- how to maintain universal access to health care at a time of rising costs and demand.

NHS funding is one of the most hotly contested topics in British politics with the system struggling to cope with the extra demands this winter.

The NHS was forced to cancel hundreds of non-emergency procedures amid a growing flu crisis which has pushed the service to its limit.

In the 2017 fall budget, the government announced £6.3 billion (about $8.2 billion) of new funding for the NHS in England, including £2.8 billion over the next two years for day to day services and £3.5 billion of capital investment by 2022-23.

But some commentators say there needs to be a fuller rethink of health service funding. A 10-member panel set up by the Liberal Democrats, a centrist political party, has called for a ring-fenced tax to fund the NHS, stating that an extra £4 billion should be spent next year, with an extra £2.5 billion for both 2019 and 2020.

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