Steerpike Steerpike

Newsnight’s bizarre NHS ‘birthday’ tribute

(Photo: BBC)

It’s the 75th anniversary of the creation of the National Health Service next week, which can only mean one thing: mass, ostentatious displays of affection for a creaking arm of the British state.

Still, even Mr Steerpike was taken aback by how quickly our state broadcaster descended into bizarre jingoistic tub-thumping for ‘our’ NHS ahead of the anniversary.

Last night the makers of Newsnight decided to capture the spirit of North Korea when they commissioned a children’s choir to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the ailing health service on air. The Cambridge Children’s Hospital Choir did a lovely job of course, but was it really necessary for the Beeb to go full-on Pyongyang?

Putting aside the fact that the NHS is not, in fact, a sentient human being that will appreciate the birthday wishes, it seems like there’s very little to celebrate when it comes to the decrepit health system. At present, waiting lists stand at seven million, with just under 400,000 operations delayed for more than a year; over 50,000 people were left waiting more than 12 hours for an ambulance in December; while our cancer survival rates lag significantly behind other high-income countries.

Only this week, the respected King’s Fund study found that our health service was the second worst at that key metric of ‘saving lives’ when compared to 19 other developed nations, lagging only behind the US. The study found that our health service ‘significantly’ underperformed on cancer and life expectancy, while was the worst when it came to stroke victims. Still, what do inconvenient health statistics matter when we’re dealing with a ‘treasured’ institution?

Happy birthday, indeed. If only everyone else made it to the age of 75…

Watch here:

Unlock unlimited access, free for a month

then subscribe from as little as £1 a week after that

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles


Written by

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

Topics in this article


Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in