‘Magic money tree?’: UK writes off £13.4 billion NHS debt amid Covid-19 pandemic
Almost £14 billion worth of debt incurred over the years by the National Health Service (NHS) has just been forgiven by Downing Street, as part of the UK government’s efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today, to help NHS trusts to deliver what’s needed without worrying about past finances, I can announce that I am writing off £13.4 billion of historic NHS debt,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the daily press conference on Thursday.
“This landmark step will not only put the NHS in a strong position to be able to respond to this global coronavirus pandemic, but it will ensure that our NHS has stronger foundations for our future too,” Hancock added.
The move was met with dismay by fiscal conservatives, who lambasted the Tory government for resorting to the “magic money tree.”
That magic money tree really is coming in handy
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) April 2, 2020
Meanwhile, the left saw it as proof that the NHS debt has been a “a pernicious fiction” all along, blaming it on Tory austerity policies, and argued it was time to fully re-nationalize the health service they say was “privatized” by a succession of Conservative cabinets.
As of Thursday, the UK has registered over 34,000 cases of Covid-19 and nearly 3,000 deaths have been attributed to the virus. Hancock and PM Boris Johnson are among those who tested positive for the virus, with both opting to ‘self-isolate’ and work from home last week.
This came just days after Downing Street ordered a three-week national lockdown, in order to ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed by a surge of patients requiring intensive care.
Established in 1946 as a culmination of decades of socialist advocacy for a nationalized healthcare system, the NHS has struggled for decades with runaway costs, inefficiencies and repeated but unsuccessful efforts to reform it.
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