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Anger as government cancels Cambridge Global Health Partnerships funding to help sick children and trauma patients overseas

A Cambridge health charity has had its funding cancelled thanks to UK government cuts in aid spending.

As part of the wider cuts to UK foreign aid spending, the Conservative government announced a £48million cut in global healthcare funding. One of the charities affected is Cambridge Global Health Partnerships (CGHP). The charity had applied for £1.2million from the UK Health Partnerships Scheme (UKPHS), which was cancelled last week as part of the funding cuts.

Dame Mary Archer, president of CGHP. Picture: Richard Marsham
Dame Mary Archer, president of CGHP. Picture: Richard Marsham

Now much of their work to help mothers and babies, children with cancer, road traffic casualties and stroke survivors in Uganda, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, and Kenya, among others will have to be cancelled because of the cuts.

Dr Rowan Burnstein, a CGHP volunteer, said: “As a critical care consultant in the NHS I am devastated to see the cuts the UK government is making to global health. During the past seven years my medical, nursing, and physiotherapy colleagues have worked with Myanmar colleagues to improve Myanmar trauma care, pathology services, medical education and intensive care.

“In the past year we have also supported the Covid response in Myanmar and continue to support medical colleagues as we can now.

“Aside from the impact of our work in Myanmar, we personally, and the NHS more widely, have gained so much strength, wisdom and knowledge from our interaction with Burmese colleagues, much of which is translated into the workplace locally.

“The loss of the UKPHS to the development of NHS staff and services in the years to come will be significant. It is one of the most effective means for bilateral development of healthcare professionals that has developed over recent years. The NHS is stronger for its global ties as a result of this scheme. I know I speak for many when I say we are angry and deeply saddened.”

The charity is linked to Cambridge University Hospital’s dedicated charity, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust. It works with hospitals, healthcare organisations and governments across Africa, Asia and Latin America, providing expertise, supporting shared learning and encouraging sustainable change. UK aid has been a longstanding source of funding for the charity.

A Global Health Partnerships meeting at Robinson College
A Global Health Partnerships meeting at Robinson College

The organisation enlists the support of Cambridge-based healthcare professionals, who volunteer their time and expertise to deliver training and mentoring. The charity says their engagement in global health activity significantly advances their own professional development leading, in turn, to improved care for UK patients.

Dame Mary Archer, president of CGHP, said: “Since co-founding Cambridge Global Health Partnerships in 2007 to support safe and effective involvement by NHS staff from Cambridgeshire in global health activities, I have watched with immense pride as the reach of the programme has extended, involving increasing numbers of NHS staff volunteering their time and expertise to share and learn with our international partners in Africa, Asia and South America.

“Every volunteer I speak to talks passionately about their work and the personal and professional benefits they get from their global health work and, having met many of our partners over the years, I know that we are making important contributions to their health systems. It is incredibly disheartening that this funding has now been cancelled.”

Dr Susan Broster, a CGHP committee member, added: “The work has an enormous positive impact overseas. Health partnerships enable UK clinicians and their counterparts in the developing world to understand emerging health issues. This includes the threats we all face from infectious disease and pandemics as well as noncommunicable conditions, mental health, child protection and integrated care.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office spokesperson said: “In 2020 we were the third biggest aid donor globally, spending £14.5bn.

“The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid. We will still spend more than £10bn this year to fight poverty, tackle climate change and improve global health.”

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