Brexit and the NHS (guest blog)

I probably should have done this before the historic election and result this previous week. No matter, because now I can write about how fluffed we are with the perspective that we are definitely, completely doomed, because 52% of the UK population failed to read the following post and voted the wrong way.
But, I don’t claim to be a politician so I’ll stick to what I think I know: healthcare, and the NHS. What will the effect of Brexit be in the coming months and years on our beloved and universally admired health service? We’re already cash strapped and the NHS has had years of under-investment – will this change?
I think a lot of “leave” voters saw only the immediate benefit. The £350million figure has been bandied around a lot throughout this campaign with controversy both over its accuracy and subsequent backtracking just hours after the referendum result. The blatant misinformation was news to some and anger at the establishment for others – to quote a friend: “Wait, the leave campaign lied? Who knew?”
This figure didn’t take into account rebates and EU investment into the UK. Following these considerations, the amount equates to £136million a week, less than 40% of the original figure. And then, there’s the fact that there’s no guarantee that money saved will actually be spent on the NHS, unless a future government stopped spending money on farmers, scientific research and the country’s poorer regions. Argument kaput.

The official word from the NHS Confederation, which represents 85% of NHS providers and commissioners, said it was “impossible to predict the full impact at this stage”. One thing is for sure; NHS and EU policies are tightly interwoven and it is vital that we get a strong deal that recognises this. However, with a recession on the table and trade deals uncertain, sustainable long-term funding is unlikely.
What about migration? Tory MEP Daniel Hannan backtracked hastily after the referendum result came in: “of course there is still going to be immigration. There are still going to be people coming here to work and you will look in vain for anything the leave campaign said at any point that suggested there would be any kind of border closure or pulling up of the drawbridge.” So, following the breakdown of the leave campaign lie, the NHS won’t be getting any relief from “health tourism”, and it is doubtful that the bill will fall post-Brexit.
The NHS is the 5th largest employer in the world and heavily relies on migrant workers from the EU – about 10% of doctors are from the EU – and if any of those 130,000 staff left the UK over uncertainty of work visas, there would be negative consequences. Renegotiation of qualifications would be necessary and it could become more difficult for doctors to work abroad.
The future of EHIC cards – vital for health insurance overseas, especially for expats – is uncertain. Dependent on whether we stay or leave the single market, this arrangement could potentially stay, but there is also possibility that they will have to arrange their own treatment in future.

Written by Trevor Lowe

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