Matt Hancock urged to hand back donations from thinktank which criticised NHS pandemic response

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, L

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, London. - Credit: PA

Labour is demanding that Matt Hancock condemns a report published by a right-wing think tank and pay back the donations he received after it said there is “no reason” to be grateful for the NHS.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) used a report to also claim there is “no rational basis” for the public support NHS staff are receiving and suggesting it is a "false narrative" that the NHS has done an amazing job during the pandemic.

Written by Dr Kristian Niemietz, the IEA’s head of political economy, it says: “There is no rational basis for the adulation the NHS is currently receiving, and no reason to be ‘grateful’ for the fact that we have it. It should go without saying that if the UK did not have the NHS it would not have no healthcare system. It would have a different healthcare system.”

Referencing the “clap for carers”, it continued: “It was soon followed by self-made posters and adverts saying ‘Thank you NHS’ or some variation thereof, usually showing hearts and rainbows drawn around the NHS logo, popping up everywhere. Crises often trigger a collective ‘Rally-Round-the-Flag Effect’, and ‘Rally-Round-the-NHS’ is the modern British version of that.”

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The report added the NHS was only the star performer “in the way in which for proud parents watching a school performance, their own child will always stand out as the ‘star performer’, even if nobody else sees it that way”.

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Now Labour has urged the health secretary to hand back the £32,000 that records state the chair of the IEA board, Neil Record, handed to Hancock - and to condemn the attack on the NHS.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote: “As health secretary, it is your job to protect and defend our country’s greatest institution – our National Health Service – and stand up for our NHS staff who have sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic to save lives and keep us safe. It is therefore deeply concerning that our country’s health secretary is so closely linked to … an organisation which criticises our NHS and is committed to its dismantling, abolition and replacement with a privatised healthcare system.”

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She added: "If you are committed to the protection of our NHS you must take action immediately to assure NHS staff and the British people that you don’t share the views of your donors at the Institute of Economic Affairs that we should not be grateful for the NHS or thank the NHS and its staff for their work during this pandemic."

This month Syed Kamall, a research director at the IEA, became a life peer after Boris Johnson recognised his efforts as a former Conservative leader in the European parliament.

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