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RCP urges prime minister to reinstate overseas aid

Ahead of the G7 Summit in Cornwall, we have written to the prime minister about the temporary reduction of the UK’s overseas development budget.

The Royal College of Physicians has today signed an open letter alongside the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association and others calling on the prime minister to once again spend 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance (ODA). 

The International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015 placed a statutory obligation on the government to spend at least 0.7 per cent of national income on aid. The government first met the United Nations 0.7 per cent target in 2013.  

The RCP was disappointed by the Chancellor’s decision at the Spending Review for the UK to cut spending from 0.7 per cent of GNI to 0.5 per cent. The government has stated that this is a temporary decision, but there is no clarity on how long the reduction in foreign aid spending will last. 

The negative effects of this decision are already being seen. For example, the UK Partnerships for Health Systems programme would have enabled NHS staff to provide training to 78,000 healthcare professionals in low and lower-middle income countries, including doctors, nurses and midwives, but it has now been cancelled as a result of foreign aid budget cuts. 

As our president said in November 2020, while ‘pandemic’ has become a familiar part of our vocabulary, we must remember that ‘pan’ means ‘everywhere’. COVID-19 cases first emerged in December 2019, but it was not declared a pandemic by WHO until March 2020. The projects funded by ODA at 0.7 per cent are vital to improve the health and health systems of some of the world’s poorest countries. In a globalised world, the health of all countries is inextricably linked. COVID-19 should serve as a reminder that the benefits of investing in development across the world has benefits beyond that country. 

We hope the prime minister will take the opportunity to confirm at the G7 summit that the UK government will reverse the temporary cut to 0.5 per cent and will instead continue to honour the UN 0.7 per cent spending commitment.