The Murdoch Sun is back to what it knows best this morning - demonising anyone it can categorise as “other”, while pretending that it gives a damn about the NHS, which, as all those staff going private demonstrates, it does not. The headline, “Exclusive: Health Cash Scandal … NATIONAL HANDOUT SERVICE … £181k bill for ONE illegal migrant” tells you all you need to know, including another Clause 1: Accuracy moment.
So it is no surprise at all to see the Sun once again wheeling out one Angus Dalgleish, who is presented as “an expert”, to which I call bullshit. Dalgleish is a renowned researcher in the field of cancer treatments, but he has not, in more than 30 years, worked on the NHS front line. Moreover, he stood as a Parliamentary candidate for UKIP at last year’s General Election. His views on immigration are well known.
Dalgleish has told the Sun “What is the point of making all these terrible cuts to services when you’re not chasing the money you’re owed?” No citation. Do go on. “I know of very ill individuals who’ve arrived for treatment from other countries and gone straight into intensive care costing thousands of pounds a day”. No citation. But there is also a quote from Migration Watch, who are not racists, and if you say they are, they’ll sue you.
So how much is this costing the NHS? The Sun provides evidence of less than £6 million, then claims “The cost of treating foreign nationals who failed to pay their way was just part of a £61million total written off by the NHS last year”. So around 10% of it. And what was the budget for NHS England in 2015-6? That figure was £116.4 billion. So we’re talking about just over 0.005% of NHS spending for last year.
When a Sun Says column thunders “HERE’S one way to tackle the NHS funding crisis: End health tourism … Britain is already fighting a losing battle to fund free care for our own soaring, ageing and increasingly obese population … We cannot lavish eye-watering sums on those with no right to even be here”, it is all too clear when the sums involved are put in context - the Sun hates context - they are less than significant.
That is why this story is not about saving the NHS money. It’s about whipping up hatred towards those who are most easily demonised. See, Sun readers, the reason you had to wait half an hour to see the doctor, or had to queue for A&E after getting ratarsed and falling over, was because someone who talks foreign was getting something that really belongs to you! And you’ve got to be angry about that, right?
This isn’t about the NHS. It’s about spreading good old-fashioned bigotry. End of story.