Experts slam Tories for NHS cuts and systematic failures in coronavirus testing

Gabriel Scally
Support us and go ad-free

A public health professor has claimed Conservative government cuts have “emaciated” the testing system and made the ability to track down coronavirus (Covid-19) cases more difficult.

Gabriel Scally, a former regional director of public health, said he was “very worried” about the country’s ability to get to the levels of contact tracers needed. Scally said 10 years ago it would have been possible – but cuts have damaged this.

His anger was in response to Conservative former Cabinet minister David Gauke’s defence of reductions in public spending. Gauke warned of an “even more difficult situation” without austerity as he tried to focus on resilience.

But the Bristol University professor told BBC Newsnight:

I think that’s nonsense if I may be so bold.

The resilience has been stripped systematically out of the system, you cannot, when a big problem like this hits, you can’t just reinvent things and put them back the way you wish they were.

If you make the system as lean and emaciated as it is there will not be the public health staff there, there will not be the health visitors, there will not be the environmental health officers and you can’t magic them up out of nowhere.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Simply testing key workers, health service workers and the over 65s really won’t cut it, so it needs to be a comprehensive programme

“Testing was absolutely critical, it hasn’t been handled properly”

Meanwhile, Paul Nurse, chief executive of biomedical research centre the Francis Crick Institute, labelled the government’s target of 100,000 coronavirus tests per day “a PR stunt”. Speaking on BBC Question Time, Nurse said there was no visible strategy behind the 100,000 target:

It was, as far as I’m concerned, a bit of a PR stunt which has gone a bit wrong,

Where was the strategy under that? I haven’t seen a strategy under it. It just sounded good.

On April 2, health secretary Matt Hancock pledged to reach the target by the end of the month. However only 52,000 tests were carried out on Tuesday 28 April.

HEALTH Coronavirus

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Nurse added that by not mass testing healthcare workers regardless of whether they were showing symptoms, the government missed the opportunity to make hospitals safer:

If we had had local testing connected to local hospitals, we could have made hospitals a safe place…

(Instead) what we had is the potential for having care workers working on the wards, working with sick patients who were carrying the disease and weren’t being tested.

They had such restricted rules on who could be tested that they didn’t simply make the decision that we have to test everybody that is a frontline worker and, in particular, they wouldn’t test anybody who had no symptoms.

We were allowing potentially for frontline care workers to be on the wards potentially infecting people because we weren’t testing.

…Testing was absolutely critical, it hasn’t been handled properly.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Take a look at the death rate in Vietnam. We call ourselves an advanced country. We boast of being the fifth or sixth richest country on the planet. Yet Vietnam beats us hollow in dealing with a virus. The Tories are wrong about everything. The cuts have left the NHS operating at maximum day by day. That fits with bottom-line, capitalistic thinking, but it’s nonsense for a health service. Spare capacity is vital. Failing to act quickly was simple neglect and nonchalance. Virologists have been predicting this since 2003. As soon as the outbreak was known in China, we should have had serious containment measures and contact tracing. The outbreak should have been tackled in December and January. Abandoning contact tracing in March was madness. Also, this can’t be fought from the centre. There has to be devolution. Contact tracing needs to be carried out area by area. Funds and skills need to be made available at local level. Most of the deaths and the economic damage were avoidable. The grief and pain are entirely avoidable insanity. Just what you’d expect from Tories.

    2. Dear Canary ,
      Unfortunately this whole pandemic is piece by piece proving the whole neo Liberal 40 year’s approach wrong . That bias leads the Tories again and again to the wrong choices : Inappropriate Metropolitan centralisation , Absurd reliance on expensive computer based consultancy schemes wasting £Ms and ineffective (tracing bonanza , anyone ?) . An undeclared NHS destroy agenda , which has confused deliberate muddle and on the cheap funding . A constant and consistent failure to plan honestly

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.