Cameron and Osborne must be ‘taken to task’ for austerity at Covid inquiry – BMA

NHS Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

David Cameron and George Osborne must be “taken to task” at the Covid inquiry over austerity-era decisions that “left us so unprepared” for the pandemic, a doctors’ union has said.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the pair should be questioned this week about the “parlous state” of the NHS due to a decade of spending cuts.

Former prime minister Mr Cameron will become the first politician to appear under oath when he is sworn in on Monday, the inquiry has said.

He will be followed by former chancellor Mr Osborne, as well as Jeremy Hunt, the current Chancellor who served as health secretary in the austerity-era Government of the 2010s.

The inquiry will examine how prepared the UK was for the pandemic, meaning economic policies in the years leading up to the first outbreak will be taken into its wide remit.

It is unclear how long each witness will spend giving evidence.

BMA council chairman Professor Philip Banfield said ahead of Monday’s hearing there was “no doubt that both staff and patients were put in harm’s way” because of underfunding in the decade running up to Covid’s arrival.

In a blog written for the union’s website, he writes: “I have seen first-hand the damage wrought by years of austerity and a failure to prioritise the nation’s health. The UK was severely on the back foot when Covid took hold, and this proved disastrous – for the doctors I represent and the millions who suffered at the hands of the virus.

“It is therefore critical that Cameron, Osborne and Hunt are taken to task over the decisions they made that left us so unprepared, and to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated when we face our next health emergency.”

He added: “The question to Cameron, Osborne and Hunt must be: how did you allow the NHS and public health to get to such a parlous state, and fail to prepare so appallingly, that many didn’t stand a fighting chance when the wave crashed over them?”

The BMA and the Trades Union Congress are among core participants to the inquiry.

The inquiry heard last week that the UK entered the coronavirus pandemic with “depleted” public services and widening health inequalities.

A report prepared jointly by Prof Sir Michael Marmot, an expert in epidemiology and director of the University College London Institute of Health Equity, and Prof Clare Bambra, an expert in public health from Newcastle University, said austerity policies affected the health of the nation in the lead up to the pandemic.