UK Politics

Nigel Farage: UKIP supports NHS not private insurance

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Media captionNigel Farage: "Idea for healthcare was rejected by UKIP"

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has clarified his party's position on the NHS after admitting he had once advocated a form of NHS privatisation.

A video compilation of his speeches on the Guardian's website showed Mr Farage suggesting public funding of the NHS be replaced by a private insurance model.

Mr Farage said it was an idea he "threw out for debate" two years ago.

But he told the BBC that it was rejected and there is "no more debate, no more argument".

And he denied that he had ever advocated an American-style model, saying he had alluded rather to the insurance-based French and Dutch systems when arguing that "we may have to think about ways in the future about dealing with healthcare differently".

'Efficiencies'

The UKIP leader said he is now standing behind his party's "settled" health policy, which is centred on an NHS free at the point of delivery.

And he added: "I don't want to be criticised for just saying to people, 'Can we just think about something differently?'"

Setting out the changes he wanted to see in the NHS, Mr Farage told the BBC: "There are reforms we want within the system. Yes, we want efficiencies.

"Yes, we think that actually the PFI (private finance initiative) deals that Labour has hung round the necks of our hospitals - we're really going to urge local authorities to buy those out as soon as they humanly can - and we'll also be talking about middle management in the NHS, which has grown by 48% since 1997."

Writing in Friday's Independent, Mr Farage has given further details of the party's health policies - many of which emerged at its autumn conference in Doncaster - including plans to ensure all foreigners have medical insurance.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said on Thursday that he wanted to "take apart" UKIP's policies in the run-up to next May's general election.

"Nigel Farage can twist and turn but he cannot deny it: he wants to privatise the NHS," Mr Miliband tweeted.

In response, Mr Farage has challenged Mr Miliband to a head-to-head TV debate before next year's poll.

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