LONDON — With Britain's general election fast approaching, almost anything can become political — even Prince William and his wife Kate's choice of private medical care for the upcoming birth of their second child.
Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday defended the royal couple's choice of private treatment over public care offered by the National Health Service.
Asked on TV if the royal couple's decision was disappointing, Cameron said he supports peoples' right to choose treatment options. He did praise the NHS, which is a source of national pride for many Britons.
"The NHS is superb and I've seen that in my own life in so many different ways," he said. "But I believe in choice. I believe in people being able to do what they want to do." He said he is praying for a safe delivery of the royal baby.
The NHS, founded in 1948, has become a political issue during the hard fought campaign, with Cameron's opponents saying he wouldn't adequately fund it in the coming years if voters return him to 10 Downing Street on May 7.
Britain has a hybrid system: Those with the financial resources to pay for private medical care have the option of seeking treatment under the NHS, which is often free of charge, or through private doctors and clinics.
Patients who choose private care can more easily schedule medical procedures at a time of their choosing and can often avoid crowded hospital wards by paying for private or semi-private rooms.
William and Kate are planning to have their second child at the private Lindo Wing, which is connected to St. Mary's, a public hospital.
Their first child, Prince George, was born at the Lindo Wing nearly two years ago. The wing has a separate entrance from the rest of the hospital, making it easier to provide security and a measure of privacy to the couple, who may receive visits from Queen Elizabeth II and other senior royals.
The public part of the hospital has seen a surgical ward closed to new admissions for the last 11 days because eight patients were found to be carrying a potentially dangerous microorganism.
The hospital said in a statement Sunday that three of these patients developed infections and have since recovered after treatment with antibiotics. The hospital said a "deep cleaning" of the ward is underway and enhanced screening is being put in place.
Palace officials have said the baby is due in late April. News reporters, cameramen and some royal fans have already gathered outside the Lindo Wing.