Brexit poses huge threats to our precious NHS

I have worked in the NHS for nearly 40 years and have seen from the inside how help is provided to people in need, regardless of their position in life. UK residents have not had to worry about how they will manage if/when they get old or ill or poor. They have known that essential health needs would be met through tax-payer funded services and most people have been happy to pay their tax for this.

Healthcare has changed immeasurably during this time. The combination of an ageing population, medical advances and the fact that more people are living with long-term conditions means that more money is needed each year to fund the NHS.

Boris Johnson’s promise to give £350 million per week to the NHS if we left the EU was understandably attractive to many voters. However, the Conservative party has been distancing itself from that promise since the day after the referendum. In reality, Brexit will have the opposite effect. The NHS will struggle to survive in post-Brexit Britain for the following reasons:

  1. The Government’s own economic analysis shows that any form of Brexit will damage the UK economy. There will be less money and less tax paid, so less, rather than more money for the NHS and other essential services.
  2. The NHS relies on migrants to staff its services. We do not train enough UK nurses, doctors or other essential workers to run the NHS. We are already struggling to fill posts that EU nationals are leaving as they retreat from the hostile, post-referendum environment in the UK. This will only get worse as we head closer to Brexit. EU nationals still don’t know whether they will be welcome to work here in the future.
  3. The NHS relies on academic research to improve healthcare but much of this funding comes from the EU. What’s more, 80% of international research includes co-authors from the EU. The UK receives more of this funding than it contributes but it will stop when we leave.
  4. Drugs used in treatment are currently regulated by the EU Medicines Agency. If we divert from that regulatory system, there will likely be delays in accessing new treatments. This will compound the effect of reduced funding, and NHS services will fall behind those of other health systems.
  5. The devaluation of the Pound against the Euro means that many British people who have retired to Europe will not be able to afford to stay, particularly if reciprocal healthcare agreements end. They will return to the UK and unlike the current EU migrants, will be less economically active, will pay less tax and due to their stage in life will make many more demands on health and social care services.
  6. The NHS is also totally reliant on there being adequate social care services. Local care agencies are already struggling to fill posts to provide these services. This will only deteriorate further because low-paid social care staff – despite being absolutely essential –  are not valued as ‘skilled workers’ so are unlikely to be welcome in the Conservative’s vision of post –Brexit Britain. Without these vital workers, hospital beds will become filled with people who cannot leave because they cannot access social care support in the community.

The NHS was already struggling with years of austerity born of the banking crisis. Its funding has shrunk significantly in real terms (despite what politicians tell us) and Brexit threatens to be the final nail in the coffin.

This is not what we were promised! Do we want a future where the 90% of the population that cannot afford private health insurance live in fear of becoming ill?

The NHS is too important to allow the blind ideology of hard-line Brexiters to prevail. Many people who voted for Brexit believed that their vote would safeguard the NHS but the facts speak for themselves.

We need a vote on the reality of the Brexit deal, allowing UK citizens a vote on the facts, not lies written on the side of a bus.

Alison Born