Rishi Sunak is still refusing to say that the NHS is ‘in crisis’. He’s held meetings on ‘NHS recovery’ this weekend, and will have been told in no uncertain terms by healthcare leaders that this is a crisis, probably the worst one the health service has faced in its history. He told Laura Kuenssberg in an interview broadcast this morning that ‘the NHS is under pressure’, and there were ‘unacceptable delays’ in emergency care, but would not accept the ‘crisis’ word. This is because, as I’ve said before, it is hard for the Tories to blame anyone else for said crisis at this stage of the political cycle.
The line that is making the headlines is Sunak’s refusal to answer questions on whether he has a private GP for his family. He told Kuenssberg that this was a private matter for him. It shows how far the Tories have come on the NHS: back in the 1980s it was very common for Margaret Thatcher and her ministers to boast that they had private health insurance because it allowed other people who really couldn’t afford to pay quicker access to the NHS instead. Now, going private is seen as an admission that the system is failing and possibly also that the politician in question is happy for that to happen.
Sunak was asked about whether he was one of those politicians who was happy for the system to fall over. One of the accusations circulating now is that the Tories have allowed a ‘managed decline’ in the health service. Kuenssberg asked Sunak ‘how have you let this happen?’ and argued that NHS leaders had been warning about this winter for months.