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The Truth Behind Brexit’s Impact on the NHS

Thursday 30 June 2016

I’m sure many of you are as frustrated as me in researching the arguments pro-remain and pro-leave for the EU referendum. If it was anything like my experience then it proved to be a challenge sifting through the arguments peddled to fit within certain agendas.

Apart from the subject of immigration, one of the key campaign elements to sway voters one way another was the results impact on the NHS. In this post I aim to provide an unbiased commentary of both sides of the argument allowing you to make your own mind-up on the future of the NHS following the UK public’s decision to leave the European Union.

£350 million per week funding

One of the more prominent claims made by the Leave campaign was that the money we send to the EU each year, which essentially is paid to retain membership equates to £5.2 billion. Vote leave claim the UK sends £350 million per week to the EU, money that the Leave campaign say can be invested back into the NHS by the government upon Brexit and help provide a monetary boost to the already fragile financial situation the NHS finds itself.

Whilst this figure quoted by the Leave campaign is accurate, it doesn’t take into consideration the rebate that the UK receives from the EU. When subtracted from the original figure, it works out at around £150 million per week – that’s less than half the figure that has been promoted by the Leave campaign.

Even then, there’s no guarantee that all or any of this money will be pumped back into the NHS as Nigel Farage stated. That decision is completely dependent on the government. NHS leaders have already called for quick clarity over this issue as obviously it will go a long way to securing the financial situation of the NHS.

Reliance on EU staff

To help cope with the level of demand asked of the NHS over the last few decades where people are living longer and thus requiring much chronic treatment, the NHS has had to look to EU workers to help support it.

From figures I have found, EU immigrants make up around 10% of the total NHS workforce in the UK and 5% in England. Whilst it is unlikely that Brexit will threaten the jobs of this segment of the NHS workforce, it risks casting uncertainty in their minds and shuts the door on the NHS bolstering its workforce with EU citizens in the future.

The Remain campaign argue that with the transition from secondary care to social care is heavily reliant on workers from the EU and this puts elderly patients and those patients with chronic health conditions at risk. Now that Britain plans to leave the EU, this transition is under threat at a time where social care is deemed vital to the future of the NHS.

The Issue of Migration

Migration, a main component of the campaign for the UK to leave EU also has an impact on the NHS. The argument championed by the Leave campaign predicts that a reduced influx of EU will reduce pressure on our critical NHS services upon leaving.

At a time where the NHS is struggling with meeting their A&E waiting time targets and reports of high numbers of staff absence through stress and anxiety related illnesses, this may well prove to act as a positive for NHS staff.

It should be pointed out that just by leaving the EU and having control of our own borders doesn’t necessarily guarantee that net migration will go down, this is purely down to the government in power.

Conclusion

Essentially, nobody really knows what will happen next. The only thing we can really do is look to what we know today and try to guess what will happen tomorrow – which is what I’ve tried to pull out from this blog.

The impact of Brexit still remains to be seen not only for the NHS but also across the UK and the world. What is sure is that the coming months and years will be fuelled with uncertainty as markets attempt to stabilise and the two year process to leave the EU begins.

During this period, it is critical that the NHS continues to commit to improving efficiency in all areas across the organisation. At a time with so much uncertainty, it is plausible that having the best information and analytical tools could certainly help to improve the quality of health services and to identify opportunities to increase efficiency.

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