Bristol professor claims coronavirus testing systems have been ‘emaciated’ by Tory austerity

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By Maddy Russell, News Editor

Dr Gabriel Scally, a professor in public health, claimed that Conservative government cuts have ‘emaciated’ NHS testing systems and made tackling coronavirus more difficult.

Dr Scally, an Honorary Professor of Public Health at the University of Bristol, stated during an interview on Newsnight that ten years of Conservative budget cuts to public health had left the NHS incapable of carrying out mass contact tracing at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

Former MP David Gauke, who served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Theresa May, disagreed saying that cuts made by previous Tory governments had been necessary in order reduce government debt following the financial crisis.

He argued: ‘The public finances in 2010 were in a terrible state but we need to look at our focus on resilience to ensure we are able to deal with these matters and I think a greater focus on resilience is clearly going to be important.’

Scally disagreed, saying: ‘I think that’s nonsense... The resilience has been stripped systematically out of the system, you cannot, when a big problem like this hits you can’t just reinvent things and put them back the way you wish they were.

‘If you make the system as lean and emaciated as it is there will not be the public health staff there, there will not be the health visitors, there will not be the environmental health officers and you can’t magic them up out of nowhere.’

He added: ‘Simply testing key workers, health service workers and the over 65s really won’t cut it, so it needs to be a comprehensive programme.’

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Following Scally’s remarks made on Newsnight, Health Secretary Matt Handcock announced that the government had exceeded its target of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of April.

However, there were concerns the figures had been inflated by the government, after it emerged that nearly one-third of the tests on the 30 April had not been carried out, only sent out.

The comments by Scally come after criticism of the government by Bristol University Chancellor Sir Paul Nurse, the Chief Executive of Biomedical research at the Francis Crick Institute, dismissed the government’s target of 100,000 coronavirus tests per day as ‘a PR stunt.’

Featured image: Twitter/BBC Newsnight


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