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Brown defends NHS on Twitter

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 13 August 2009

Gordon Brown has defended the NHS amid stateside criticism calling the institution "evil" and "Orwellian". Jane Deith reports.

Gordon Brown (reuters)

It is the cornerstone of healthcare here in the UK that has been pushed to the centre of an increasingly heated political debate in the United States.

President Obama is battling to push his controversial new healthcare bill through Congress but Republicans critics are biting back.

Now, Gordon Brown has weighed into the debate, signing up to the #welovetheNHS Twitter campaign to defend the health service.

Elsewhere, the man who led the British backlash to American criticism of the NHS, Graham Linehan, speaks to Channel 4 News about his impromptu campaign on Twitter.

Former health minister Lord Darzi and American journalist Megan McArdle debated the NHS on Channel 4 News.

Mr Brown said the NHS made the difference between "despair and hope." He backed the online fight by tweeting: "NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death. Thanks for always being there #welovetheNHS"

His wife Sarah also joined the defended the service tweeting: "#welovetheNHS - more than words can say."

Downing Street's remarks followed support given by Professor Stephen Hawking's for the NHS. 

In the political debate over US healthcare reform, Republicans are targeting the British health service as an example of the bad system the president is trying to establish. 

Professor Hawkings said the NHS has saved his life many times after healthcare opponents had claimed the NHS would have left him to die. 

Professor Hawking is currently in America to receive the highest US civilian honour - the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Barack Obama awarded 16 people with the Presidential Medal of Freedom who he praised as "agents of change."

Bitter exchanges in the US over health care reform have seen the NHS increasingly drawn into the debate, with the American right keen to demonise the British system.

Free market campaign groups air adverts detailing horror stories from UK patients it claims were deprived of treatment under the NHS, warning that universal state-provided care should not be adopted by the US.

As the war of words heats up, commentators have even gone as far as to suggest that veteran senator Edward Kennedy and physicist Stephen Hawking would be left to die under the UK system because of their age and disability respectively.

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