Shelagh Fogarty urges Jeremy Hunt to accept austerity's impact on UK's coronavirus response

21 July 2020, 15:53

By Fiona Jones

Shelagh Fogarty calls on former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to accept that 10 years of austerity impacted the UK's coronavirus response.

Shelagh observed that the decisions made around austerity over the last ten years meant public health was "really impoverished."

She put it to Mr Hunt that a public health infrastructure is the very place where a testing system for pandemic preparation would have grown and been strengthened.

Mr Hunt responded that it is crucial to be vocal about what went wrong, "I think the cuts in social care went too far and in the leadership campaign this time last year I said that was one of the things that need to be sorted out urgently."

For pandemic preparedness Mr Hunt reiterated that the UK was over-prepared for flu and under-prepared for SARS and "that was during the time I was Health Secretary so I have my share of responsibility for that."

Mr Hunt told LBC that the UK was over-prepared for flu and under-prepared for SARS
Mr Hunt told LBC that the UK was over-prepared for flu and under-prepared for SARS. Picture: LBC

"I think we did prepare quite thoroughly for pandemics, it was just the wrong type of pandemic," Mr Hunt said.

Shelagh countered, "Do you feel it as a source of regret or shame that from 2011 to 2020 we went from having a pandemic preparedness strategy that was described as amongst the leaders worldwide to be ranked as among the worst of the world's richest nations in a ten year period under a Tory and coalition and Tory government and in a period of austerity?"

Mr Hunt said this was the first time he had heard that statistic, "The statistic I heard was that we were ranked second best prepared for a pandemic in the world by Johns Hopkins University because we did such thorough preparations."

He told Shelagh he did not want to be defensive because "they weren't preparing for all types of pandemic" which is why the Government were "caught out on testing".

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