Responding to today’s appearance before the Covid Inquiry by former Chancellor George Osborne, BMA President Professor Martin McKee said:
“The Covid Inquiry deserved better than George Osborne’s dance of denial today.
“For him to say there is 'no connection whatsoever between austerity and the unequal impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged communities’ is quite staggering. The removal of the social safety net, the cutting and reallocating of public health budgets, the underfunding of public services – all of this had its greatest impact on the most disadvantaged.
“Tens of thousands of excess deaths in the poorest areas were attributed to austerity policies even before the pandemic hit, with ill health among the key causes. Austerity left the poorest exposed to the worst of this catastrophe. In the decade after 2010 life expectancy in the UK hardly improved at all, lagging ever further behind all other high income countries except the US.
“The NHS saw almost no capital investment in our health service for a decade alongside a lack of funding for a properly-staffed NHS. When the pandemic came we had a quarter of the ICU beds per patient that Germany had, a quarter of the hospital beds per person, and a quarter fewer doctors per person.
“Mr Osborne justified all this by saying austerity was about ‘fixing the roof’ while the sun shone, that the UK’s balance sheet allowed us to respond fiscally when the pandemic came. But numbers on a spreadsheet are no substitute for a healthy population and a robust NHS and public health system. Mr Osborne had a chance to reflect on that today and it is to his great discredit he did not take that chance.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.