Britons angry after Trump says UK health service ‘not working’

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Both government and opposition speak up for country's universal healthcare system

LONDON: US President Donald Trump drew a fierce reaction from angry Britons, including Health Minister Jeremy Hun after criticising Britain's publicly funded healthcare system as "going broke and not working".

On Monday, Mr Trump used Britain's National Health Service (NHS) to make a domestic political point arguing against universal healthcare, but in doing so was perceived to have bad-mouthed a system held dear by his country's closest ally.

"The Democrats are pushing for universal healthcare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!" Mr Trump tweeted.

Britain's health system delivers free care for all. It is typically one of the most important issues for voters during elections and often regarded as a weakness for British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative, or Tory, Party, whose opponents accuse the government of inadequately investing in it.

Outraged Britons flocked to Twitter defending the NHS, with many pointing out that the march Mr Trump referred to was organised by groups that want to increase the health service's funding, not dismantle it.

The rally drew 60,000 people to central London on Saturday.

Even Mr Hunt, one of the main targets of the protesters' anger, snapped back at Mr Trump.

"I may disagree with claims made on that march but not one of them wants to live in a system where 28 (million) people have no cover. NHS may have challenges but I'm proud to be from the country that invented universal coverage - where all get care no matter their bank balance," said Mr Hunt.

Later, Mrs May's spokesman echoed Mr Hunt, saying she was proud of the system and pointing to a Commonwealth Fund international survey that found the NHS was rated the best performing out of 11 developed countries.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted back to Mr Trump: "Wrong. People were marching because we love our NHS and hate what the Tories are doing to it. Healthcare is a human right."

According to the World Bank, Britain spends 9.1 per cent of its gross domestic product on healthcare, compared with 17.1 per cent in the US. Average British life expectancy is 81.6 years, nearly three years longer than in the US. - REUTERS