Why Transparency Around Rishi Sunak's Healthcare Matters

The millionaire prime minister's understanding of the challenges the NHS faces have been under the microscope recently.
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, wearing a face covering, speaks with nursing staff during his visit to Croydon.
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, wearing a face covering, speaks with nursing staff during his visit to Croydon.
LEON NEAL via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak might think his healthcare choices are “not really relevant” – but, as he is meant to be fixing the NHS crisis, they are.

Here’s what you need to know.

What has the PM said about his healthcare?

During this week’s PMQs, he tried to overcome the growing speculation about how he received medical attention by using the first question from MPs (about NHS dentistry) to address it.

“I am registered with an NHS GP,” the prime minister said, amid cheers and shouts from the rest of the house, before adding: “I have used private healthcare in the past.”

He also said he does not have private medical insurance at the moment.

It was an abrupt change from his attitude just days ago when, speaking to Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday, Sunak said questions about his own healthcare were “not really relevant”. Instead, he spoke only about his father’s career as a GP and his mum’s time as a pharmacist.

However, back in the Commons on Wednesday, Sunak did not mention when he stopped using private healthcare – meaning it could have been very recently.

Keir Starmer also joked that the PM would “enjoy the experience of waiting on hold every morning at 8am to get a GP appointment”.

The BBC also said his office did not answer when asked if Sunak plans to use private healthcare again in the future.

Why does his half-admission matter?

It goes against his previous promises

The prime minister said on January 4 that NHS waiting listing will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly, making it one of his five vows which he said the public could hold him to account over.

Sunak also vowed to lead the government with “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” when he was first appointed by the Conservatives as PM.

According to ByLines Times’ Adam Bienkov, Sunak’s spokesperson said the PM decided to reveal the detail about his own life for the purposes of “transparency” – but they still did not explain whether he has used private healthcare since getting in No.10.

It adds to fears that he does not understand the troubles facing the NHS

As the NHS crisis continues to spiral – waiting times for routine operations have fallen but ambulance response times and A&E waits have hit new highs – Sunak is under a great deal of scrutiny.

The prime minister has tried hard to separate his private family life from his time in the spotlight.

But, as the richest person ever to reside in No.10 and boasting a joint fortune of around £730 million with his wife, many have long believed he is too disconnected to understand the problems most Brits face – such as not being able to afford any private healthcare as the NHS collapses.

Critics have already complained that, despite encouraging the nation to clap for NHS workers during the pandemic, Sunak is showing little willingness to negotiate on pay.

Only back in October, Sunak made headlines after he chatted to a patient at a hospital who told him “you need to try harder” when it comes to NHS workers.

His late revelation about his healthcare also comes the day after his new anti-strike proposals reached the Commons, where he does not rule out sacking striking NHS employees.


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