One of the most uplifting things during the coronavirus outbreak has been the national effort to celebrate the brave, dedicated NHS staff who are risking their lives to fight the pandemic.
Epitomised by the weekly “clap for carers,” where people have been applauding NHS workers out of their windows and balconies, we are finally as a nation seeming to appreciate the brilliance of the NHS.
At last Thursday’s Downing Street briefing, however, one newspaper tried to take more credit than most for the tributes that have been paid to the NHS.
Raising their “campaign” with Matt Hancock, the Sun elicited praise from the Health Secretary for celebrating health workers.
“I know it’s something The Sun has been leading the charge on and I pay tribute to your work in making sure that every single health and social worker across the NHS and across social care and other public servants know they are valued for the work they are doing,” Hancock said.
However, it’s well worth remembering that the Sun – a right-wing rag – hasn’t always been a supporter of NHS staff. Far from it.
Over the past few years, a number of Sun articles have demonised foreign doctors and nurses working tirelessly in the NHS.
Take this article from December 2015, for example, which took a shot at foreign nurses:
Or this one – casting aspersions on foreign doctors.
Or this one – questioning their qualifications.
For context, as of 3rd April four British doctors and two nurses had died after testing positive for COVID-19. Five were from BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] backgrounds.
Meanwhile, the Home Secretary has automatically extended the visas of foreign NHS workers for a year, to help the health service “focus on fighting coronavirus”. Even Piers Morgan has paid tribute to the extraordinary efforts made by foreign NHS staff.
Yet the Sun has spent years undermining them with sensationalist headlines.
And the newspaper hasn’t just targeted NHS workers from abroad.
Junior doctors – among the most overworked people in the NHS – have also been in the Sun’s firing line.
Take this column from former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, published in 2016, which accused junior doctors of being “rail union bullies”.
At the time, junior doctors were striking over new contracts designed to increase their hours and effectively reduce their pay.
While this piece tried to hammer doctors for trying to recoup lost money caused by employment changes.
The Sun is trying to claim it’s the bastion of the NHS. Don’t believe a word of it.