Unhappy 70th birthday: Brexit is bad for NHS

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 05.07.2018

Nurses, doctors and midwives are campaigning for a People’s Vote. Here are six reasons why Brexit is bad for our health.

Driving away European doctors and nurses

About 40% of European doctors are making plans to leave because of uncertainty over Brexit. What’s more, fewer Europeans are coming in to replace those health workers who leave. The year after the referendum saw a 96% drop in EU nurses registering to practice here.

Brexiters said if we kicked out foreigners we’d find it easier to get treated in accident and emergency departments. We’ll actually find it harder to get treated because there won’t be enough doctors and nurses. We already have 40,000 nursing vacancies.

Hole in public finances

Theresa May has promised the NHS an extra £20 billion a year over the next five years. But the money she has earmarked for this – a dishonest “Brexit dividend” – doesn’t exist. The government’s own figures show Brexit will put a £15 billion hole in tax revenues, before we even think about paying our £39 billion divorce settlement.

The Chancellor has admitted we’ll have to raise taxes to pay for this spending – and the Health Foundation say it’s barely enough to stem further decline. It won’t lead to any improvements. If we were staying in the EU, we’d have more money to spend on patching up our health service, so it can continue to patch us up.

Delays getting new drugs

The NHS is making plans to stockpile drugs in case a chaotic no-deal Brexit disrupts supplies. But even a smooth exit would cause difficulties. The UK won’t be a priority for launching new drugs any more if we pull out of the EU’s regulatory system. Why would pharma companies make us the first port of call when we are only 65 million people? At present, when they develop drugs for the EU market of over 500 million people, they get automatic approval to be used here.

Demand a vote on the Brexit deal

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Cancer treatment disrupted

Brexit could also make it harder to treat cancer and perform medical scans. The government has chosen to leave Euratom, which regulates the supply of medical isotopes in Europe. The Royal College of Radiologists is “seriously concerned”. Do we really think this shambolic government will manage to negotiate a replacement regime in time?

Vulnerable are vulnerable abroad

An estimated 27 million of us carry a European Health Insurance Card. For most people this means peace of mind when travelling in Europe, that you’ll have the same access to healthcare as locals if you fall unexpectedly ill or suffer an accident. But for the 29,000 people in the UK who have kidney failure and need life-saving dialysis, Brexit could mean the difference between being able to afford a trip to Europe or not.

Sucking up to Trump

After burning our bridges with Europe, we’ll be desperate to cut a trade deal with Donald Trump, who wants to milk the NHS for every penny he can. Most of the drugs sold in the UK are “generics” – cheaper version of patented products. When the US signed a trade deal with Australia, it restricted the supply of these generics, raising prices. We could suffer the same fate.

So today is not a happy birthday for the NHS. The best present we can give it is to fight Brexit.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

Tags: , , , Categories: Articles, Brexit

3 Responses to “Unhappy 70th birthday: Brexit is bad for NHS”

  • Its a great argument but can we also bear in mind that the third largest workforce in the NHS is Allied Health professionals (AHPs) and we too aren’t happy about Brexit!
    We work alongside the Drs and Nurses and too are suffering the impact of Brexit on patient care.
    Let’s hold in mind that the NHS is made up of more workers than Drs and Nurses!

    Many thanks
    Laura Knight

    Vice chair of British Association of Dramatherapists

  • Why were nt we made aware of these facts on how it would affect us as a country b4 we voted.So many people would not have voted as they did.

  • @Marie,

    That’s debatable. A lot of warnings were given on a variety of issues but were dismissed as project fear by the leave campaign and many people accepted that. Personally I’d never heard of Euratom before the referendum and I suspect a lot of other people hadn’t either, but would they have voted differently if they had? Who knows.