LONDON (AP) — Britain’s health minister was angrily heckled Monday over health care system changes.
The government says the changes will improve efficiency; opponents say the changes threaten the foundation of the country’s state-funded health care service.
Protesters jostled Health Secretary Andrew Lansley as he arrived for the 10 Downing Street meeting on the reforms. Demonstrator June Hautot, 75, accused Lansley of trying to privatize the National Health Service (NHS).
“The NHS is not for sale,” Lansley told her. “There is no privatization.” But the government is still struggling to convince skeptics of that.
Britain’s Conservative-led government is planning a major overhaul of the NHS, which provides free treatment to all Britons. The government says the reforms will cut bureaucracy, improve treatment and give doctors more control over health care management.
Opponents say the changes will give private companies a bigger share of heath care and undermine the system’s universality.
The overstretched health service is Britain’s biggest employer, costing more than 100 billion pounds ($158 billion) a year, and is a source of both constant complaints and national pride.