Opinion: Boris Johnson thanking the NHS for saving his life has more than a touch of hypocrisy

OPINION: Boris Johnson's impassioned speech as he left St Thomas' hospital certainly stirred the emotions.

There was relief the British Prime Minster survived a close call with coronavirus and didn't add to the over 10,000 deaths the UK has seen.

And it is fantastic news Johnson, whose partner Carrie Symonds is pregnant, is okay - but thanking an organisation his party, the Tory party, has savaged over the past 10 years had a touch of hypocrisy.  

In a video released on Twitter early on Monday (NZ time), Johnson thanked all the NHS staff who took care of him while he was in ICU. 

"It is hard to find the words to express my debt to the NHS for saving my life," Johnson Tweeted. 

"I want to thank the many nurses, men and women, whose care has been so astonishing," he said in the video, listing a number of the people whose help he appreciated.

In particular, he thanked a Kiwi nurse called Jenny from Invercargill and a Portuguese nurse called Luis from Porto. Both of whom had stood by his bedside pretty much non-stop and made sure he could breathe. 

Without that level of care, he could well have succumbed to the virus that has infected nearly two million globally and killed over one hundred thousand. 

It is fair to say the British PM owes his life to an institution the party he leads has tried to wreck over the past 10 years. It is also fair to say that Johnson himself has made it harder for migrant workers to come to the UK. 

The National Health Service was launched in the post-war Britain of 1948. It was part of a cradle-to-grave welfare system that ensured British people would be cared for from birth until death. 

It offered accessible healthcare -  funded by a National Insurance contribution - to everyone. The NHS was for a long time the envy of the world.

It is a welfare system the Tory party has long waged war with and has cut funding to extensively. 

One of the main victims of the cuts has been nurses, like the ones who saved the PM's life. 

The lack of nurses in the National Health System - a body Johnson called a 'national treasure' - has been growing worse since the coalition Government led by David Cameron began making cuts in 2010, when it was believed the number of nurses the NHS needed would fall. 

Cuts to the profession continued through to Theresa May's government when in 2017 a training bursary was cut for nurses, making it harder to recruit nurses. 

Johnson himself in 2017 voted against scrapping a one-percent pay rise cap for nurses. 

These actions resulted in the NHS being short around 40-50,000 nurses in 2019.

Johnson has long used the NHS to spur emotions. His famous Brexit slogan, which was later found to be incorrect, was "we send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead." 

The current slogan in the UK to fight the coronavirus is: "Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives."

Before he was hospitalised Johnson was seen outside Number 10 clapping NHS workers. 

But this doesn't wash, the Tory party has long seen the NHS as part of a welfare system that is ideologically unsound, and one that uses up too much taxpayer money.  

One thing we have learned from the coronavirus pandemic is countries need robust healthcare systems. 

They need to be prepared to deal with global incidents such as a pandemic. 

We have seen a decline in New Zealand to the point that, like many countries are finding, there is a lack of basic personal protection equipment for nurses and doctors. These healthcare systems should be well run and well funded. 

Boris Johnson has found out first hand how important that is. 

And there is also a touch of irony about the man who championed toughening up immigration to the UK during his successful Brexit campaign being nursed by two nurses from overseas. 

Around 5000 sorely-needed nurses returned to Europe after Brexit, but luckily for Johnson, Luis from Porto stayed put. 

Mark Longley is the managing editor of Newshub Digital.