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.
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.
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