Comment on cut to foreign aid budget

MPs in the UK Parliament recently voted – by 333 to 298 - to cut the UK’s foreign aid budget by £4bn. This represents a cut of 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income.

The College had previously joined with medical colleagues at the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to raise our concerns about the cut to foreign aid and now expresses disappointment at the confirmation of the cut.

As a charitable organisation with an international outlook, we believe that at times of crisis, nations must come together. The COVID-19 pandemic is adding pressure to health and care systems across the world, and so we would hope that the wealthiest nations could come together to support people in low-income countries. Ultimately the major health challenges that face us – including COVID-19, health inequalities, climate change and population growth and ageing – will be solved by global citizenship, international collaboration, and crucially, compassion.

Foreign aid has been a force for good. The evidence indicates that money spent through Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) improves health and saves lives. ODA dramatically reduces child and maternal mortality, and helps to build sustainable communities and economies.

Many low-income countries rely on health aid from the UK. For example, the Gambia, a low-income country in western Africa, received more than half (55%) of its health aid in 2019 from the UK.

Furthermore, projects funded by ODA have directly benefited the NHS. UK-based clinicians work on international placements, alongside their local counterparts, to improve standards of care and clinical practice. This collaboration makes them better doctors and nurses, which in turn, benefits patients in the UK.

The College is proud to represent physicians from over 100 countries. We will continue to work with our Overseas Regional Advisors around the world in places such as India, Pakistan and Sub-saharan Africa, to support our international Fellows and Members on matters such as examinations and training. If there is anything we can do to assist international Fellows and Members, please contact Ninette Premdas, International Manager.