Stephen Hawking has accused ministers of damaging the NHS, blaming the Conservatives in a passionate and sustained attack for slashing funding, weakening the health service though privatisation, demoralising staff by curbing pay and cutting social care support.
The renowned 75-year-old physicist was speaking to promote an address he will give on Saturday outlining how he owes his long life and achievements to the NHS care he received, and setting out his fears for a service he believes is being turned into “a US-style insurance system”.
The author of A Brief History of Time did not name any minister or political party in his general complaint, but he blamed a raft of policies pursued since 2010 by the coalition and then the Conservatives for enfeebling the NHS and leaving it unable to cope with the demands being placed on it.
“The crisis in the NHS has been caused by political decisions,” he said. “The political decisions include underfunding and cuts, privatising services, the public sector pay cap, the new contract imposed on the junior doctors and removal of the student nurses’ bursary.
“Failures in the system of privatised social care for disabled and elderly people has also placed additional burden on the NHS.”
Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, a story told in the film The Theory of Everything, and has increasingly relied on the NHS as his condition has deteriorated.