Hunt stands up for NHS after Trump says UK's health system is 'going broke'
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has hit out at the NHS, claiming it is "going broke and not working".
In a tweet replying to Mr Trump's original quote, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "I may disagree with claims made on that march but not one of them wants to live in a system where 28 million people have no cover. 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."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mr Trump was "wrong" and "people were marching because we love our NHS and hate what the Tories are doing to it. Healthcare is a human right".
The Open Britain campaign against a "hard" Brexit warned that the prospect of a trade deal with Mr Trump posed a threat to the NHS.
Labour former health minister Ben Bradshaw said: "Our pharmaceutical companies are already having to divert money that could have been spent on research into new treatments into preparing for Brexit.
"Yet even that is not the worst we can expect from Brexit. That will come in the form of the orange peril, Donald Trump, and what he will demand as the price for any trade deal Theresa May or her successor signs."
An open letter signed by more than 100 politicians from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green Party warned that "Brexit is not a panacea to the NHS crisis" and "instead of providing answers, it simply creates more problems".
The organisers of Saturday's NHS protest rejected Mr Trump's "divisive and incorrect rhetoric".
The People's Assembly Against Austerity and Health Campaigns Together said the NHS had been "a shining example to the world of what can be achieved when we put the needs of the collective good over the interests of a few wealthy individuals".
They added that the protest was against the prospect of moves to an "American-style system, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the most expensive, inefficient and unjust healthcare systems in the world".
In their message to Mr Trump, the groups said: "This is what our demonstration was about on Saturday February 3 and tens of thousands of British people want to show their love for the principles of universal and comprehensive care free at the point of use, paid for through general taxation.
"We don't agree with your divisive and incorrect rhetoric. No thanks."
Commons Health Select Committee chair Sarah Wollaston used a Twitter post to tell Mr Trump that people "are marching to demonstrate their support for the NHS" and to call for more funding.
Responding to Mr Trump's tweet about the NHS, Theresa May's official spokesman said: "The prime minister is proud of having an NHS that is free at the point of delivery.
"NHS funding is at a record high and was prioritised in the budget with an extra £2.8 billion.
"In the recent Commonwealth Fund international survey, the NHS was rated the best in the world for a second time."
Asked whether the prime minister backed Jeremy Hunt's tweet, the spokesman said: "Jeremy Hunt is the health secretary and of course he speaks for the government on these matters."
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "President Trump is lucky in that he can afford the best health care available.
"But there are millions of patients who can't and I for one am proud to work within a health system that doesn't simply cast the poor and vulnerable aside."
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said Mr Trump had "got the wrong end of the stick" and invited the president to visit its "brilliant" staff and services during his planned trip to the UK this year.
Mr Stevens said Britain delivers healthcare for all at half the cost of the US system, telling the Commons Public Accounts Committee: "Unfortunately and respectfully I think we'd suggest that tweet got the wrong end of the stick and that in fact people in this country don't want to ditch our NHS, notwithstanding everything that we've been talking about today, they want to keep it and strengthen it.
"So our invitation in the NHS should the president be visiting later this year will be to spend time with brilliant doctors, hospitals, technology experts, scientists, hear about the cataract services, the hip replacements, the modern scanners, the world-first liver, heart and lung transplant, the genomic revolution, all under way here in the NHS and go away understanding that healthcare for everybody delivered at half the cost of the US healthcare system is something that people in this country are deeply and rightly committed to."