College writes to Foreign Secretary on healthcare crisis in Middle East

College Chair Kamila Hawthorne has today written to the Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, highlighting the escalating healthcare crisis in the Middle East and urging the Government to use all its means to ‘prevail on all parties to the conflict to take urgent action to halt the hostilities which are causing such destruction to Gaza's health services and in the region’. 

You can read the letter in full here.

Dear Lord Cameron,

I am writing to highlight the escalating healthcare crisis in Gaza and to urge the Government to utilise its diplomatic leverage in response to this.

I know that, like me, you will be only too aware of the mounting loss of life and the deepening humanitarian disaster that we are seeing unfold in the region due to the military action following the appalling attacks on Israel on 7th October. In this context, and as a Medical Royal College dedicated to encouraging, fostering and maintaining the highest possible standards of general practice in the UK and worldwide, we are profoundly concerned about the impact of the resumption of hostilities on Gaza's health services and those working to provide medical aid. A substantial proportion of Gaza's healthcare infrastructure, including primary care facilities, has already been destroyed, and healthcare workers are working under the constant and terrifying threat of military attack, with a significant number already having lost their lives.

We understand from our contacts in the region that the situation is now more difficult than ever, and that there are growing concerns about the growth in communicable diseases and other conditions, including malnutrition, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and Hepatitis A. We are also told that the approvals process for getting health supplies and emergency medical teams is extremely slow and complex, impeding the flow of much-needed medical aid and supplies into the area.

It is no exaggeration to say that the health system in Gaza now stands on the brink of a state of collapse, in which it is unable to meet even the most basic healthcare needs. As the World Health Organisation has highlighted, if the health system is not restored, the public health consequences for the 2 million civilian population are likely to be catastrophic, with the potential for untreated diseases to kill even more people than bombing. The impact of this will be felt for many years to come.

While I appreciate that the UK Government has no direct control over events on the ground, I would urge you to use all the means at your considerable disposal to prevail on all parties to the conflict to take urgent action to halt the hostilities which are causing such destruction to Gaza's health services and in the region. Our healthcare colleagues in Gaza are doing their best to deliver care and services in the most terrible conditions and they, their patients, and the medical facilities in which they work must be protected in line with international humanitarian law. In addition, it is vital that steps are taken to immediately tackle the barriers that are limiting the passage of medical supplies and aid into Gaza, and to increase the flow of other humanitarian assistance necessary to prevent disease and ill-health.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Kamila Hawthorne
Chair of UK Council
Royal College of General Practitioners

Further information

RCGP Press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.