UK health expert apologises for saying that Ireland has no health service
"That was never my intention."
UK general practitioner and frequent media pundit Hilary Jones has apologised following an appearance on Good Morning Britain in which he claimed that the Republic of Ireland doesn't have an official health service of its own.
Jones was in conversation with GMB hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Monday morning (16 March), discussing the UK's ongoing response to the spread of Covid-19.
Morgan noted that "most other countries" have issued official orders to close schools, including America and Ireland, highlighting "inconsistency" in the UK.
"Why are we the only ones not doing this stuff?" Morgan asked.
"I think there are many reasons," replied Jones.
"If you look at different countries they all have different health systems and different situations and circumstances. The Republic of Ireland, for example; they don't have a health service so they must be very worried about how they would cope with lots of people getting the virus all at once, in other words, at a sharp speed."
A confused Reid then countered, asking if Ireland has a health service or not.
"No," replied Jones.
"It's largely private, isn't it? Yes, absolutely. They don't have an NHS to fall back on, as such, people pay their GP every time they see them. I'm not sure the details of this but it's a different situation as it is in the UK."
Coronavirus update: 'The time to close schools is when we get a hotspot of the virus.'
'If we don’t test people then we don’t know where the hotspots are.'@DrHilaryjones says it is a 'concern' that healthcare professionals are not even being tested. pic.twitter.com/bbaewXTyHd
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) March 16, 2020
Following an inevitable backlash, Jones took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to address his performance.
"Apologies to anyone who thought I was denigrating the Republic of Ireland's HSE," he began.
"That was never my intention. The point I was making is that different countries have different health systems, different demographics and different current circumstances regarding coronavirus.
"This is why internationally, the approaches of scientific and medical experts differ. I understand the service in Ireland is not totally free at the point of delivery as it is under our NHS and I was under a lot of pressure to answer as many questions on today's programme as possible."
This is why internationally the approaches of scientific & medical experts differ. I understand the service in Ireland is not totally free at the point of delivery as it is under our NHS & I was under a lot of pressure to answer as many questions on todays programme as possible.
— Dr. Hilary Jones MBE (@DrHilaryJones) March 16, 2020
Jones went on to add that "we all have to pull together on this terrible infection and its consequences" before once again clarifying his error.
"Anger, bitterness and division will not help. Please accept my sincere apologies for the unintentional inaccuracies.
"I know that all the healthcare professionals across all departments within the NHS throughout the UK and Ireland are doing a fantastic job under extreme pressure and circumstances."