Brexit threatens my NHS. I’m backing a People’s Vote

by David Taylor Gooby | 07.09.2018

I am backing a People’s Vote because Brexit threatens our health service. The NHS is a modern marvel. The world’s first truly national health service and still one of the best.

Free at the point of demand is practically an article of faith for politicians and public alike and there is nothing more certain to provoke demonstration and protest among ordinary people than a threat to their local A&E or maternity unit.

The acute political sentiment around the NHS certainly explains why Boris and his gang put their false slogan on the bus, promising £350 million a week in extra funding.

I currently sit on the Health Scrutiny Committee for Durham County Council and previously served as a lay member of a Clinical Commissioning Group. I know a bit about what is going on.

The vast majority of the NHS staff I know love their work and have a genuine desire to serve their patients.

Most are uncomfortable with any attempt to make their service more commercial or privatise it. But many fear this is exactly what could happen if crashing out without a deal meant we were forced to do a deal with America.

Petition: We, The People, demand a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.

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We would be beggars not choosers and would have to accept what the Americans – and, right now, Donald Trump – wanted. This would certainly include access for US health leviathans into the NHS.

But regardless of how that particular situation plays out Brexit is already causing us problems.

Durham Hospital for example recently recruited 60 nurses from Italy. They needed them to keep going but it is getting harder to convince trained medical staff from Europe to train in the UK.

We also already have problems finding the doctors we need in the North East and often look to countries like Germany, where there is a surplus of trained doctors to help fill the gap.

Any measures which make it more difficult to recruit from EU countries would make the NHS’s staffing problems worse. Never mind the money. The trained people would simply not be there.

Then there is the oncoming trainwreck of losing the European Medical Agency.

The EMA was set up in 1995 with funding from the EU and the pharmaceutical industry in an attempt to harmonise the work of existing national medicine regulatory bodies. And it has been a massive success.

Today the EU is currently the source of about one-third of the new drugs brought onto the world market each year and the UK has a large slice of that market.

If we leave it will move to Amsterdam, and the UK will have to test all new drugs coming in from abroad, and at the same time European countries will have to test ours. This will mean more cost and delay. There is a real worry flu jabs will be held up, for example.

The NHS is admired throughout Europe. Do we really want to cut ourselves off from the mainstream of pharmaceutical and health research? That’s the cost of Brexit to our NHS and that’s why I am backing a People’s Vote.

This is the part of our Brexit Voices series, where we hear how the uncertainty of leaving the EU is affecting people’s lives across the UK.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

7 Responses to “Brexit threatens my NHS. I’m backing a People’s Vote”

  • Seem to have forgotten the people have voted and voted leave. We risk becoming like a banana Republic by rejecting a legal result and demanding a new vote, whatever next – dispute the result of a general election because we don’t support the party that one? Guess you don’t believe in democracy unless it has the outcome you want

  • Peter, there is a world of difference between seeking confirmation of a doubtful Referendum result and attempting to overturn a General Election.

    In case you hadn’t noticed or made the connection, we regularly discard the legal result of a General Election and require a new vote. With the recent Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, any General Election gets discarded after five years maximum, or earlier if a sufficient majority of MPs call for it.
    The General Election of 2015 was discarded after only two years, and its replacement in 2017 showed a significant change in voting pattern even with very little new information about the Parties and their positions. Is it therefore unreasonable to check whether there has been a shift in voting pattern on a crucial constitutional issue over a similar timescale, given the massive increase in the available information?

    Requiring confirmation of a significant change before executing it is not “becoming like a banana republic”. Two-point decision-making is quite literally Business Project Management 101. One decision at the concept stage, to decide whether it’s appealing enough to justify spending the time and resources on working out the details – that was 2016. Then a second decision point once those details are known, to decide whether the single achievable reality (with all its inevitable compromises and concessions) lives up to the optimistic promises of the concept. This is standard practice for any sane organisation in any field, be that business, charity, or Government.

    Let’s not get trapped into the question of the truth or motivations of either side in 2016. The argument for a confirmatory referendum doesn’t need it, and it just becomes a mud-slinging distraction.
    The main reason for requiring confirmation is that the concept on offer in 2016 was so poorly defined that it could be taken to mean almost anything. I know, because they told me, that people voted for it with radically contradictory visions of what it would lead to: some expected business-as-usual with extra social and environmental protections; some wanted to pull up the drawbridge and become an isolationist fortress; and some thought we would raise two fingers to the world and become a predatory tax haven (descriptions slightly paraphrased!).
    Whatever deal or no-deal we end up with, a lot of people are going to be very disappointed. Why should their aspirations be abused to support an outcome that they oppose more than the status quo?

  • Peter,

    It literally was not a legal result. That is why the leaders of Vote Leave have been referred to the police by the electoral commission.

    Last year Austria had to rerun their presidential election because of irregularities in the way the vote was counted – with no suspicion that this had been deliberate or affected the result. That is what happens in a functioning democracy.

    Overlooking illegal activities by one or other side in a vote because you got the result you wanted is what happens in a banana republic.

  • The other point about the impact of Brexit on the NHS, is that many British nationals in Europe are retired and if forced to return, would place a proportionately higher burden on the NHS. In contrast, the demographic for EU migrants to the UK is relatively young, who place less burden. Brexiteers talk about EU migration just as a ‘one way street’ and a convenient scapegoat for any problems facing health, housing, services.