United States president Donald Trump has sparked a backlash from UK politicians by attacking the National Health Service. In a tweet criticising US Democrats pushing for a universal health system, he said thousands of people are marching in the UK because the NHS is going broke and not working. This was believed to be a reference to a Save the NHS march on Downing Street on Saturday, demanding more funding.
Downing Street said Theresa May was proud of the UK's system. Her spokesperson said the NHS had recently been ranked as the world's best healthcare system and that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has hit back at the US president on Twitter, speaks for the government.
Organizers of the demonstration said it had been aimed at showing people's love for the NHS. The chief executive of NHS England said the US president had got the wrong end of the stick.
In the UK, the NHS is funded out of general taxation, so people do not have to pay when they get treatment. In the US, when people get treatment they have to pay, most often through health insurance providers.´
President Trump's tweet came after ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage appeared on Fox And Friends, one of the president's favorite shows, talking about the weekend march.
Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care, Mr. Trump tweeted. In response, Mr Hunt said that while he disagreed with claims made on that march, no-one wanted to live in a system where 28 million people have no cover.
He added: 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 - the leader of the UK opposition - also hit back, saying: People were marching because we love our NHS and hate what the Tories are doing to it. He added: Healthcare is a human right.
NHS funding has been hotly debated in the UK as hospitals struggle to cope with the pressure on resources. A panel set up by the Liberal Democrats - the fourth largest party in the Commons - has called for a ring-fenced tax to fund the service, saying an extra £4bn is needed for next year and an additional £2.5bn for both 2019 and 2020.
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable urged the US president to read the study, to find out how to fund a universal healthcare system.
Saturday's demonstration, called NHS In Crisis: Fix It Now, was organized by the People's Assembly Against Austerity and Health Campaigns Together.
In a joint response to the US president, they said people had marched to show their love for the principles of universal and comprehensive care free at the point of use, paid for through general taxation.