Novel coronavirus Covid-19, credit: NIH/CC (uploaded 18/03/2020)
Novel coronavirus Covid-19, credit: NIH/CC (uploaded 18/03/2020)

John Dolan, Local government care worker, 2007-2022

Former Tory prime minister David Cameron and former chancellor George Osborne – both 2010-2016 – denied to the Covid Inquiry that their government’s austerity policies damaged the UK’s ability to cope with Covid.

The British Medical Association (BMA – the doctors’ union) has said that this ‘denial’ is “staggering”. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) also attacked Cameron and Osborne’s claims. The TUC pointed out:

By 2020, waiting times had worsened.

Compared with similar countries, the UK was at the bottom of the table for numbers of doctors, nurses, beds, IT units and ventilators per 100,000.

Between 2010 and 2020, the number of nurses per capita in the UK grew by less than 1% – despite demand for care rising by one-third.

In 2019, the average NHS worker was earning £3,000 less in real terms than in 2010.

In 2020, government spending per capita was still lower than in 2010 in social care, transport, housing, childcare, schools, higher education, police, fire services, and environmental protection. This limited the ability of public services to contribute effectively to civil contingencies, and to continue essential activities effectively.

Local authority core spending power was cut by a third between 2010 and 2020.

In 2019, capital investment in health was 10% below 2010 levels.

Benefit cuts increased poverty levels. Living in poverty was associated with greater risk of exposure to Covid, and greater vulnerability to more serious health consequences from being ill with Covid.

Experienced workers quit

Many experienced public sector workers left under austerity job cuts, pay restraint and increased workloads. Bursaries to cover the cost of tuition for nursing students were also scrapped by the Tories, leading to lower staffing levels.

As well as Tory austerity attacks, it’s worth us all remembering that at the 2010 and 2015 elections, before Jeremy Corbyn became leader, the Labour Party was also promising cuts. Both parties expect the working class to pay the price of economic crises. That’s why the working class needs its own political party.