Royal Colleges, unions and academics urge PM to reverse aid spending cuts and invest in overseas healthcare

on 07 June 2021 Covid-19

Leading health organisations, the TUC and academics have today come together to urge the Prime Minister to reverse the decision to reduce overseas aid spending. In a letter to Boris Johnson, the broad coalition warns of severe damage to low and middle income nations, particularly to the health of women and girls.

This call follows a ‘temporary’ abandonment by the UK last November of its commitment to the United Nations to spend of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas aid. Spending dropped from 0.7 per of GNI to 0.5 per cent.

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said: “On Sunday, the Health Secretary tried to reassure us that these cuts are temporary – but that’s not a reassurance to those programmes which have already had to be abandoned. This aid is vital in supporting the most vulnerable, but it’s also about empowering nations to become more self-sufficient, particularly in training and developing their own healthcare workforce. The reality of these cuts is that there will be fewer midwives, fewer nurses, fewer doctors in training, and even poorer outcomes for the people in those countries.”

The funding cuts will also disproportionately impact women and girls. Dr Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director of UNFPA, which stands to lose £130 million, said in April this year that the lost funding would have helped prevent ‘around 250,000 maternal and child deaths’.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “In a global pandemic, where health services remain under pressure, cutting the resources that the UK provides to lower and middle-income countries will cause irreversible harm to the health and wellbeing of women, girls and their families. We have seen COVID-19 severely affect women's health outcomes globally, including sexual and reproductive health.

“In light of these cuts, we now call on the government to proactively work with partners to minimise their harm, by acting to reverse or otherwise mitigate their impact, and ultimately reaffirm its commitment to funding women's health services and sexual and reproductive healthcare.”

The cuts will deliver crushing blows to many projects globally and will almost certainly affect efforts to train more healthcare professionals, including midwives, nurses and doctors, in countries that desperately need them. 

Frances: O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said: "If the UK government really wants to use its presidency of the G7 to lead a global recovery from coronavirus it must reverse the cuts to international aid. And it must deliver on its commitments to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  UK aid can play a vital role in strengthening public health systems in countries under strain from Covid and in improving access to quality healthcare for women and girls around the world.

"This pandemic has shown that we all have a shared interest in improving public health across the globe."


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Notes to editors

The letter can be read at 

The organisations signing the letter are:

  • The Royal College of Midwives
  • The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • Trades Union Congress
  • Unison
  • British Medical Association
  • The Royal College of Nursing
  • Royal College of Physicians
  • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • Royal College of General Practitioners
  • College of Podiatry
  • The Society & College of Radiographers
  • VSO
  • Life for African Mothers
  • International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN)
  • WHO Collaborating Centre for Midwifery Development
  • Medical Aid Films
  • Association of South Asian Midwives C.I.C.
  • Hellenic British Midwives Association
  • Heb Ffin
  • Edinburgh University Global Health Faculty

 The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website.