Analysis comment

Video: simple question on the effect of NHS cuts leaves Gove gobsmacked and reduces NHS boss Stevens to gibberish

Gove’s face spoke volumes – but Simon Stevens’ answer not only failed to answer question but highlighted even more of the Tories’ damage to the NHS

A journalist’s simple question last night left Tory front-bencher Michael Gove gobsmacked – and left NHS England boss Simon Stevens floundering.

Andy Woodcock, editor of the Independent, asked Stevens whether – as NHS England chief executive since 2013 – he regretted the reductions in beds he had overseen on behalf of the Tories and his failure to increase the number of nurses in training.

Failures that have left the NHS in England with one of the lowest numbers of critical care beds in Europe – half the number in Italy – and the lowest ratio of nurses and doctors per head of population in the developed world.

The Tories have cut well over six million bed-days a year from the NHS’s capacity – and more than 43,000 nurse posts are vacant.

Gove’s face as Woodcock asked his question spoke volumes – but he passed the question to Stevens like a hot potato.

Stevens waffled, gibbered and danced around the question, making assertions that had nothing to do with the question asked.

But his response that he has a plan for putting more staff into the NHS over the next 5-10 years revealed just how slow and slack the Tories have been to even make a pretence of putting right the cuts they have inflicted and the shortages they have known about for years:

That Italy is swamped in its COVID-19 crisis does not excuse the Tories for slashing the NHS down to half the capacity of the Italian health service.

And Stevens’ comment that the NHS can’t just keep fifty additional hospitals empty in case of a pandemic was a sick joke when NHS waiting times were at their worst ever – well before the coronavirus crisis and the cancellation of all kinds of treatments, including cancer treatment, to try to give the starved NHS more room for virus victims.

The whole shambles made clearer than ever that huge numbers of deaths in the coming catastrophe will be directly linked to the Tories’ media-disguised, decade-long assault on the NHS.

It was a shambolic, disgraceful performance – and a brilliant journalistic question that exposed it.

The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here for a monthly donation via GoCardless. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.

If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.


  1. Asking questions is doing only half the job. When the inevitable non-answer is given, before they have a chance to move on, the minister or spokesperson should be told that the waffle is unacceptable and their feet held to the fire so they can’t escape.

    These broadcasts are watched by many members of the public who may never see a PM Question Time or other political show. Politicians and those responsible for our safety should be interrogated mercilessly.

  2. I don’t know any more about Steven’s than Adam – but expecting an official spokesman to attack his employer – no matter what he actually thinks – is naivety at best. What do you expect him to do?

    Gove is a different matter.

    1. RH, find out a bit more about Stevens and his background and then get back to me.

      1. My point was totally separate from the individual’s background or views, Jack (although I appreciate the point you’re making about Stevens)

        Whatever else – anyone who didn’t actually resign would, of course, waffle when faced with defending the Tory record on the NHS.

  3. Funny that it takes the “I” , The Independent and FT to ask pertinent questions, and funny how they never get a chance to come back and state that they had not answered the original question ie how many people in the front line were off their work because of the virus. It’s a PR win, win for the Government. Hopefully they will ask other papers in the future to ask questions, ie The Mirror instead of their usual chums Telegraph,Sun,Times!Mail, but don’t hold your breath…..miracles do not happen!

  4. Suspect Grove will be spoken to about taking the question from said journalist rather than same old government puppets. It was the best question asked thus far at the media briefings. No clear answer was given by anyone but some media sources clearly silent on the question.

  5. Stevens is everything that’s wrong with Britain in one body. A Labour politician, one of whose best mates at Oxford was Boris Johnson. Advisor to Alan Milburn as they privatised large parts of the NHS and introduced PFI under Blair. Subsequently boss of US giant UnitedHealthCare (the world’s biggest health insurance company with revenues of 242 billion dollars) for 10 years before taking over the NHS in 2014. Knighted in 2020. It’s like putting Herod in charge of a kindergarten.

    1. Yes indeed, labrebisgalloise, the ghastly creature, Stevens, was put in charge of NHS England for one core purpose, to run down and hence discredit with the public, our state owned NHS in England, and prepare it for the shift to mass private health insurance, and complete privatisation of the entire physical hospital infrastructure, on the disastrous US model. Stevens in indeed a creature of the neoliberal Blairite New Labourite privatisers too, like that horrible ex-Trot, uber Blairite,Alan Milburn.

  6. United Health is heavily involved in the NHS through Optum Care see for fuller information. They are heavily involved with Accountable Care Organisations as well as other external commissioned NHS services. Nottingham NHS is asking private provider to take over Cancer services.

    Noam Chomsky “That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.”

  7. National Disgrace
    Run Down NHS
    Underfunded and Overstretched
    Still on the Table
    Visceral Hatred of NHS
    Betrayed Front Line staff
    Bullshit and Bluster
    Liar and a Charlatan

    Whatever we choose to call those responsible, needs to be short and sweet

  8. Another one about to run away under the cover of the virus. We’re ready to bring you and your henchmen to trial Mr Gove, but we have more important things at the moment.

  9. Just listen to how this utter turd of a person turns the blame away from those responsible for the state of our NHS ,,, him /Gove /Tories over the past 10 yrs have utterly gutted our once superb NHS ( in fact that’s what Tories ALWAYS do every single time ) , and onto the victims in all this , ‘US the public , it will be all our fault if catastrophe happens , and he didn’t even attempt to answer the original question.

    You can see how this is going to play out , denial , obfuscation , deflection/distraction and outright LIES , from this Govt and it’s lackeys.
    Oh yes Johnson and his arse-wipe crew are all for ” pulling together” we’re all in this together , together we will defeat this virus , together we will pull through and over come this ” .

    BUT when it comes to admitting that their policies and cuts are the problem , then ohh noooo , not our fault , never admit that .
    God how I hope to hell the voters remember this at the ballot box .

  10. In the early stages of the next outbreak of a previously unknown disease, before any test is available, back-tracing Patient One’s contacts will again be critical.
    Outside of small population centres where people know their neighbours – like Vo in Italy – technology will be the solution.
    Covid-19 might have been stopped before it went global if databases had been linked – photo ID’s linked to credit/debit cards, linked to transport ticketing, linked to automatic facial recognition cameras in public spaces, linked to number plate recognition cameras.
    These technologies together could trace recent contacts quickly enough to prevent outbreaks turning into pandemics – and catch criminals with maybe 90% reliability, making violent crime virtually unthinkable.
    Thing is though, they could probably catch us cheating on our spouses or our taxes or pulling a sickie, so maybe we shouldn’t bother?
    Maybe we’d prefer to keep our privacy?

    Technologies are politically neutral but if we want them to be used for our benefit, first we have to take power away from those who’ll use them to oppress us and profit from it.
    The technologies are coming anyway, so buckle up.

  11. And of course stevens starts his answer with ‘So…’

    Another one with delusions of intelligence, thinking he’s talking to a group of children. Boils my piss, so it does.

  12. Is it possible for someone to dig up the arguments from Hansard, that the tories used in 1948 to oppose the implementation of the NHS??

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: