Boris Johnson criticised for refusing to look at photo of sick child
Johnson pocketed reporter’s phone when challenged over image of child on hospital floor
Boris Johnson has come under fire after repeatedly refusing to look at a photograph of a four-year-old boy who was forced to sleep on the floor at an overcrowded hospital.
During a television interview, the prime minister was challenged over the image of four-year-old Jack Williment-Barr, who was pictured sleeping under coats on an NHS hospital floor in Leeds.
Williment-Barr was suffering from suspected pneumonia when the photograph was taken, but was waiting for a bed to become available.
After Johnson refused to look at the image, Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “He just doesn’t care.” Independent Group for Change leader Anna Soubry described Johnson’s actions as “appalling”.
The incident happened when ITV political correspondent, Joe Pike, attempted to show the prime minister the photograph on his phone.
Johnson refused to look at the image, saying: “I understand. And obviously, we have every possible sympathy for everybody who has a bad experience in the NHS.”
After Johnson tried to change the subject to Brexit, Pike said: “I’m talking about this boy, prime minister. How do you feel, looking at that photo?” Johnson replied: “Of course. And let me tell you… I haven’t had a chance to look at it.”
Pike then asked: “Why don’t you look at it now, prime minister?”
Johnson, still refusing to look at the photo, replied: “I’ll study it later.”
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As Pike continued to press him the matter, Johnson said: “If you don’t mind, I’ll give you an interview now. What we are doing is we are taking this country forward, and we are investing in the NHS.”
Johnson then took Pike’s phone and put it into his own coat pocket, prompting Pike to say: “You’ve refused to look at the photo, you’ve taken my phone and put it in your pocket, prime minister. His mother says the NHS is in crisis. What’s your response to that?”
Johnson then looked at the image and said: “It’s a terrible, terrible photo, and I apologise, obviously, to the family and all of those who have terrible experiences in the NHS. But what we are doing is supporting the NHS and on the whole, I think patients in the NHS have a much, much better experience than this poor kid has had.”
At the end of the interview, Johnson handed back the phone and said: “I’m sorry to have taken your phone. There you go.”
Williment-Barr’s mother, Sarah Williment, said she had constructed a makeshift bed for her son when he was without a bed for four hours at a Leeds hospital.
She told the Mirror that the doctors and nurses were “lovely people”, but added she was “angry at the lack of funding and the lack of beds”, accusing the government of “failing our children”.
The Tories have pledged to raise the NHS budget by £33.9bn by 2023-24, while Labour is promising to boost NHS budgets by about £7bn a year by increasing expenditure across the health sector by an annual average of 4.3%