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NHS row: Cameron rebukes Tory MEP

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 14 August 2009

David Cameron publically slaps down MEP Daniel Hannan after his NHS attacks on American television fuel a political row on both sides of the Atlantic.

David Cameron (Reuters)

Tory leader David Cameron said a Twitter campaign defending the NHS from attacks in America showed how proud Britons were of the service.

Gordon and Sarah Brown were among thousands of people who posted messages of support on the social networking site after the NHS was condemned by US Republicans as "evil and Orwellian".

In an email to Conservative party workers published on his blog, Mr Cameron said millions of people, including his own family, were grateful for care they had received from the NHS.

He wrote: "Just look at all the support which the NHS has received on Twitter over the last couple of days. It is a reminder - if one were needed - of how proud we in Britain are of the NHS."

President Barack Obama's plans for reforming healthcare have sparked a furious row on the other side of the Atlantic.

Opponents have warned that the changes will "socialise" the system, and could even lead to panels deciding whether the elderly deserve life-saving treatment.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan was rebuked by his party after joining the attacks on the NHS in a US television interview last week, where he said he "wouldn't wish it on anybody".

MP John Prescott, who has written about the row on his blog, spoke to Channel 4 News about the MEP's comments.

"His terrible statements about the NHS are not a proper reflection of it," he said.

"I went to the library and looked p what has happened in Mr Hannan's seems death and mortality rate has actually been cut 25 per cent in the last ten years, cancer by 15 per cent, heart diseases by 25 per cent, stroke by 42 per cent and life expectancy had gone up seven years.

"Now that is what's happened to the changes we've made to the health service under this government.

"We have to defend our health service but I leave it to the good sense of the American people - judge it on the facts. They must make the decision but ours has been has been a great, great health service which over 90 off per cent of the people in this country want."

Britons 'duped' into ad campaign

Two British women who feature in a US campaign opposing Obama's healthcare reforms have said their views on the NHS were "misrepresented".

Katie Brickell and Kate Spall, who appear in adverts for Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR), said they supported state-funded healthcare despite their descriptions of poor NHS treatment forming the centrepiece of Republican opposition.

Ms Spall, whose mother died of kidney cancer while waiting for treatment, and Ms Brickell, who had cervical cancer diagnosed after being refused a smear test because of her age, appear in the adverts saying they were let down by the NHS.

Both have now said that they were told they were being interviewed for a documentary analyzing healthcare reform - neither was aware that the footage was to be used for right-wing advertisements.

Daniel Hannan rebuked by fellow Tories

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the MEP had done the NHS and Americans a disservice by presenting a "negative and partial view".

The #welovetheNHS campaign was launched by Britons keen to counter the allegations, and the sheer number of messages added apparently crashed the Twitter site on Wednesday.

UK politicians are generally wary of wading into domestic policy rows in the US.

But among the missives 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."

Mr Brown's wife added her own comment, saying: "#welovetheNHS - more than words can say."

Health Secretary Andy Burnham also offered support - although he risked embroiling himself in controversy by joking he was more interested in his football team than the NHS.

A message posted on Mr Burnham's behalf by Downing Street said: "Andy Burnham: Over the moon about strong support for NHS - an institution I will defend to my dying day, 2nd only to Everton FC."

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, rejected criticism of the NHS yesterday as he collected America's highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," Prof Hawking said.

Prof Hawking was commenting after one US commentator suggested he would be left to die under the UK system.

The claim, in an editorial on Wednesday for Investor's Business Daily, was later corrected after the newspaper realised that the renowned scientist was born, lives and works in the UK.

Mr Burnham said later: "I am exceptionally proud that Britain has a world class National Health Service which treats people on the basis of clinical need - irrespective of their ability to pay.

"The global groundswell we have seen on Twitter about this and the pride and strength of feeling in some of the posts is testament to its remarkable achievements."

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