Everyone’s favourite right-wing libertarian dickhead Kate Andrews was once again on BBC Question Time (BBCQT). As always, the alleged economist-turned-alleged journalist was discussing the NHS. Of course, as is usually the case with Andrews, her passive-aggressive demeanour and weasel words masked her actual agenda – but only just.
Kate Andrews: manipulative figures on BBCQT
Andrews was discussing the NHS on BBCQT during the week of its 75th birthday. She summed up by saying:
I think politicians across the political spectrum have done a great disservice to the public by pretending… the NHS is the envy of the world. It’s not, and it hasn’t been for a very long time.
what good is it to say free at the point of use if you can’t see your GP?
Her use of figures was manipulative, to say the least. While the UK does have the sixth-highest spending of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members as a share of GDP (as Andrews claimed), that’s not the whole story. In fact, UK spending per person, and overall cash spent, is lower than the so-called EU14 average (EU members prior to 2004). UK spending per person is also lower than most other Western countries.
Of course, Andrews also fails to mention the reasons why the UK spends so much on the NHS yet it’s still in crisis. For example, as openDemocracy uncovered in 2014, health bosses were spending at least £10bn a year on administering the NHS’s internal market – that is, where private companies can bid for services.
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An NHS mixed model: not what it seems
So, her answer to the chaos in the NHS? Getting the private sector more involved (and spending even more money on administration, presumably):
We need to be much more realistic about using the private, independent, and charity sectors for provision
Andrews argued the model would be a mixed one – with the state and private/other organisations working together. She pointed to Europe as an example of this. Andrews named:
France, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland…
as examples of her mixed model but where the system wasn’t ‘privatised’ and outcomes were better. Bear in mind, the UK has had a mixed model for the last decade – with private companies bidding for, and running, NHS services. Oddly, it’s since then that some people’s health outcomes and NHS performance have become worse. How strange that Andrews failed to mention this.
Of course, what she also failed to mention was that in many of these countries, people pay tax or insurance towards healthcare but then also have to pay extra on top for treatment (like France and Switzerland) or additional insurance (like Germany and Belgium). Sweden is an outlier, having a system like the UK.
The point is, that while these countries’ health systems are all free at the point of use, these systems are still two-tier: that is, the more money you have, the better quality treatment you get. This is the case in France, Germany, and Switzerland.
So, poor people in these countries don’t have access to the same healthcare as richer people. No surprise, then, that Andrews is pushing this model for the UK.
Andrews: a libertarian shilling for the free markets
As one Twitter user pointed out, the Canary has covered Andrews and her links before:
Kate Andrews, "Politicians have done a great disservice to the public by pretending and coming to this fake consensus that the NHS is the envy of the world. It's not." #BBCQT
From The Canary, "Kate Andrews is a prominent lobbyist for private healthcare companies. " pic.twitter.com/avNIce7Rz5
— Farrukh (@implausibleblog) July 6, 2023
We wrote in 2018 that at the time:
Andrews is a prominent lobbyist for private healthcare companies. Andrews is currently news editor for the Institute of Economic Affairs [IEA], a hard-right thinktank which promotes the shrinking of the welfare state. Before that, she was with the equally hard-right Adam Smith Institute. As a spokesperson for Republicans Overseas UK, it was Andrews’ job to sell the ideology of the US Republican Party to Britain. And everyone knows how the Republican Party feels about taxpayer-funded healthcare.
The IEA is a very shady think tank. As the Canary also wrote in 2018:
According to transparency advocates Transparify, the IEA is one of Britain’s “highly opaque” think tanks which seeks “to shape public debates and influence politics and policies” in the UK…
As Transparify has previously reported, the IEA has one of the worst records for financial transparency.
Andrews is no longer with the IEA. Today, she’s economics editor at the right-wing libertarian Spectator. And in the past few weeks, she’s written a flurry of articles along similar lines to her BBCQT position. The point is that Andrews’ calls for a mixed-model NHS hide the reality of her position.
For her, free markets are king. If poor people don’t get such good health care, it’s their fault for being poor. And while Andrews might believe the NHS should be free at the point of use, she clearly thinks a two-tier system where the rich get better treatment is acceptable.
Despite her softly-spoken words on BBCQT and claims of ‘universal healthcare’, Andrews is quite happy politicians have left the NHS on its knees – because the private sector is already swooping in.
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