Tory and Labour MPs have defended the NHS after US presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate said "socialised" healthcare was detrimental to patients.
Paul Ryan said nationalised healthcare systems such as Britain's were slower to develop lifesaving drugs and had a damaging effect on the economy.
But Labour shadow health minister Jamie Reed hit back, saying Ryan's criticisms were a "lie" and that the NHS was one of the "defining achievements of Britain".
And Stephen Dorrell, a former Conservative health secretary, said he thought the vice presidential candidate appeared not to understand how the NHS worked and that it was not the "devil incarnate".
Ryan, who was unveiled by Romney on Saturday, is best known for the so-called "Ryan Budget" plan which would, among other things, cut funding for the Medicare and Medicaid programmes which provide healthcare for pensioners and those with low incomes .
He also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's flagship health care law known as "Obamacare".
Writing in the Wall Street Journal in January 2009, the Wisconsin congressman singled out the NHS as an example of bad practice as Republican's battled to block Obama's health care reforms.
"Nationalising health care will be profoundly detrimental to the quality of American medicine," he wrote.
"In the name of cost control, the government would make private investment in medical innovation far riskier, and thus delay the development of potentially lifesaving treatments.
Ryan warned that Obama's plan would "put America on a glide path toward European-style socialism".
"We need only look to Great Britain and elsewhere to see the effects of socialised health care on the broader economy," he said.
"Once a large number of citizens get their health care from the state, it dramatically alters their attachment to government.
"Every time a tax cut is proposed, the guardians of the new medical-welfare state will argue that tax cuts would come at the expense of health care - an argument that would resonate with middle-class families entirely dependent on the government for access to doctors and hospitals."
Labour's Jamie Reed told The Huffington Post UK that there had been a "long tradition" of "misrepresenting and defaming Britain's National Health Service in US politics".
"It's a misguided tradition and in the wake of Obamacare, an increasingly mendacious one. The facts are that the NHS is one of the most effective and efficient healthcare systems anywhere in the world: it's a lie to claim otherwise," he said.
"It simply isn't true or credible to state that publicly funded healthcare delays the development of new medicines or other treatments and the NHS - as the Olympic opening ceremony again underlined - is one of the defining achievements of Britain and a cornerstone of British life and culture.
"It's benefits for the economy and every other part of British life have been incalculable.
"It seems that every time certain Republicans panic, they reach out to criticise the NHS. They should resist speaking about what they don't understand. In the words of David Bowie, 'this is not America.'"
At the height of the 2009 fight over Obama's health care reforms the NHS was dragged into the debate to such an extent that the Department for Health took the unusual step of issuing a rebuttal to some of the claims made by critics.
"People have been saying some untruths in the States," a spokesman for the DoH told the Associated Press at the time.
"There's been all these ridiculous claims made by the American health lobby about Obama's health care plan and they've used the NHS as an example. A lot of it has been untrue."
Ryan's comments about the NHS arguably have more significance now that he would be vice president should Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama in November.
Stephen Dorrell, who was Conservative health secretary under John Major in the mid-1990s, said that while he did not disagree "entirely" with Ryan's views, the congressman had not provided evidence to back up his claim that Europe was less innovative in medical research than the United States.
"The only basis on which he can go on to say that socialised healthcare inhibits developments of lifesaving treatments is if it can be shown lower pricing brought about by those pressures actually inhibits developments of new treatments," he said.
"And I don't think you can show that, I wouldn't say innovation is slower in Europe than in the US."
Dorrell, who is now the chair of the House of Commons health committee, told the Huffington Post UK that the vice presidential candidate, as well as British politicians, would have to accept that the European and American models were moving closer to one another.
"Ironically what is actually happening is although it is in the interests of American and European politicians to distance themselves from each other, what is happening is a convergence of policy," he said.
"The rising demand for healthcare is creating a tension between the desire to hold down taxes and desire to meet consumer demand for care.
"Both Europe and North America start from a position where there is a private sector and a state sector and the two are kept remarkably separate.
"Both systems are being driven in the direction of integrating the private sector and the tax supported sector because that is the only way of delivering socialised healthcare, that is, care based on need not ability to pay.
"They both are working out how to get onto common ground from very different starting potions, when both have an interest to demonstrate to their electorates the other system is the devil incarnate."
He also said Ryan's criticism of the NHS were misguided as he appeared not to understand how the system worked. Dorrell said that the whole direction of European health policy was to distinguish between entitlement and ownership.
He said the goal was to provide "socialised access but not to have nationalised supplies".
Dorrell also said Ryan's proposals to cut spending on healthcare while at the same time increasing spending on the military was "pretty bold", indicating it was perhaps politically unwise.
"It's a brave policy to take discretionary spending down and preserve military spending at the same time, but there is nothing wrong with ambition," he said.
Labour backbencher Katy Clark, who is on the left of the party, said for most people in Britain Ryan's characterisation of the NHS "would be quite bizarre".
"Historically if you look at the way the NHS has worked it has been very cost effective," she said.
She told HuffPost that it was no bad thing that the middle classes felt attached to state provided healthcare.
"What you have is mass buy-in to the state providing a public service, it does change the attitude of people in the middle classes towards the state when they have got a stake.
Clark added: "They use their power to drive the improvement in standards."
"Throughout his life, Mitt Romney has made great decisions, and choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate is a truly inspired choice. I got to know Paul during my Senate campaign when he endorsed me early on when I was still considered a long shot. Paul Ryan is a courageous reformer who understands our nation's challenges, has proposed bold policy solutions to solve them, and has shown the courage to stand up to President Obama and other Washington politicians trying to tear him down. "The Romney-Ryan ticket is going to win in November because it offers the American people visionary leadership to recapture the free enterprise spirit that has empowered countless Americans to build businesses from scratch and live the American dream. I'm excited about the visionary change a Romney-Ryan team will bring to Washington, and I look forward to campaigning
<blockquote> "Mitt Romney has made a great choice in Paul Ryan. He is an accomplished public servant and a leading voice on the most pressing issues facing our country. Paul is one of my best friends in Congress and someone I have worked closely with as a former colleague on the House Ways & Means Committee. "Jane and I wish Paul and Janna and their kids the very best. As the Chairman of the Romney campaign in Ohio, I look forward to working with Paul to ensure that the Romney-Ryan ticket carries Ohio and is victorious in November. Most importantly, as a member of the Senate, I look forward to working closely with a Romney-Ryan Administration to restore fiscal sanity and enact pro-growth policies to create jobs."</blockquote>
Obama for American Campaign Manager Jim Messina
<blockquote>"In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy. The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors. As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes."</blockquote>
Rachel Maddow MSNBC
Charles M. Blow
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee issued the following statement: <blockquote>"Paul Ryan is a right-wing extremist who wants to end Medicare. This is a major unforced error by Mitt Romney. It gives President Obama and Democrats a chance to draw a clear contrast in 2012 by promising not to cut one penny from Medicare or Social Security benefits. If Democrats win in a landslide, this was the game changer." -- Adam Green, co-founder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a 1 million member grassroots organization</blockquote>
Susan B. Anthony List
The national pro-life organization released the following statement: <blockquote>"By selecting Congressman Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, Governor Romney demonstrates his commitment to protecting American women and unborn children," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List. "A longtime pro-life advocate and a strong fiscal conservative, Congressman Ryan has insisted that there can be no 'truce' when it comes to advancing the rights of the unborn and achieving fiscal responsibility. He has a pristine pro-life voting record and will be an asset to Governor Romney's campaign. "Pro-life voters are a key demographic and help secure victory in critical elections," continued Dannenfelser. "The addition of a second strong pro-life leader to the ticket energizes the pro-life base - we are thrilled with this pick."</blockquote>
<blockquote>"The selection of Paul Ryan is a bold and inspired pick," said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud. "Paul Ryan has been the architect of policies that would benefit all Americans, especially gay Americans." "Paul Ryan is one of the few political leaders anywhere in the country willing to tell the American people the truth about the unprecedented budget crisis we are facing, and - more importantly - willing to put forward bold plans to put this country back on the road to fiscal solvency," continued LaSalvia.</blockquote>
Log Cabin Republicans
<blockquote>"Congressman Paul Ryan is a strong choice for vice president, and his addition to the GOP ticket will help Republican candidates up and down the ballot," said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. "As chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the Republican "path to prosperity" that provided the blueprint for serious spending cuts in this Congress, nobody is more qualified to articulate a conservative economic vision to restore the American economy and stimulate job creation. </blockquote>
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Center For American Progress President Neera Tanden
<blockquote>"Just like Sen. John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin and George H.W. Bush's selection of Dan Quayle, Mitt Romney has been cowed by the right wing into choosing an extreme vice presidential nominee who will alienate moderate voters. It's now clearer than ever that as president, Mitt Romney would end Medicare as we know it, and will raise taxes on middle class families by more than $2,000in order to slash taxes on the wealthiest Americans. While there is a lot that can be said about Paul Ryan's extreme views, more important is what this choice says about Mitt Romney: that he is unwilling or unable to stand up to the far-right of his party and select a vice-presidential candidate that is both able to be president on day one and capable of governing by reaching across the aisle."</blockquote>
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry
<blockquote>"If there were ever any doubt that Mitt Romney is not on the side of working people, today's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate makes it crystal clear. With this choice, Romney has shown the American people that he believes Rep. Ryan's extremist, irresponsible and anti-worker agenda is what's right for our country. "Rep. Ryan has made a name for himself by fighting in the halls of Congress for tax giveaways for the wealthy and big corporations while proposing to gut vital services like Medicare and education, and eliminating any sense of retirement security for working families. His no-holds barred record of attacking seniors, children, and working men and women is frightening for the 99 percent of Americans who are not rich -- but for Mitt Romney it was a calling card to choose him as a running mate."
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan
<blockquote>"Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Ryan as his running mate reminds us of why elections matter when it comes to our ability to make personal and private medical decisions," Keenan continued. "The outcome of the 2012 presidential election very well could determine whether abortion remains legal and accessible for the next generation of American women. Romney has pledged that taking away women's rights will be a priority for him and his choice of Ryan amplifies that promise to the extreme anti-choice backers of this ticket. My organization's priority is to make sure President Obama remains in the White House."</blockquote>
Rep. Kathy Hochul
<blockquote>"Americans deserve new ideas for how we can reduce the debt and protect our seniors and the middle class. Just one year ago, Western New York voters rejected the Ryan-Collins policies that would end Medicare as we know it and hurt middle class families while giving more tax cuts to the rich. Our country needs to move forward, not re-hash failed ideas. Given Chris Collins' ongoing support for tax cuts for the rich that add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit and his willingness to send his business to China to line his pockets, it is clear my opponent is going to continue to pursue policies and priorities that have already been rejected."</blockquote>
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Chris Van Hollen
Rep. Mary Bono Mack
Rep. Trent Franks
<blockquote>"Now that Paul Ryan's personal ambition has clearly trumped his interest in the First District, I have no doubt he'll find himself out of a job come November. Once Wisconsinites and voters across our country learn the truth about Ryan's radical plot to end Medicare as we know it, de-fund women's health care, and preserve tax breaks for millionaires, they'll vote against him not just once, but twice. In the coming weeks, our campaign will work with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to continue getting the word out on Ryan's indefensible record, and building momentum to ensure victory on Election Day."</blockquote>
<blockquote>"Governor Mitt Romney made a bold and reform-minded selection in Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. This election has to be about who is going to look out for the next generation. America needs a comeback team to turn around the economy and to turn around the fiscal status of our country. Romney and Ryan have the ideas and the experience needed to take on these core issues. This is a great day for Wisconsin and an even greater day for America."</blockquote>