Health think tanks issue warning over Brexit

Health think tanks issue warning over Brexit

In an open letter to MPs, The King’s Fund, the Health Foundation and Nuffield Trust, summarise the four major areas where the impact of a no deal Brexit could be felt most sharply in health and care. Their conclusion is that a no deal Brexit could cause significant harm to these services and the people who rely on them.

They say there is a very real risk that leaving the European Union without an agreement could ‘exacerbate the workforce crisis’ in health and care, drive up demand for already hard-pressed services, hinder the supply of medicines and other vital supplies, and stretch the public finances.  

  1. The NHS has serious workforce shortages, with nearly 100,000 vacancies in English NHS trusts and a further 110,000 in social care. With 116,000 EU nationals working in health care and 104,000 in social care, even a small trend towards European migrants leaving the United Kingdom due to a fall in the pound or uncertainty around being granted settled status will worsen this situation.
  2. Despite plans for stockpiling and creating new supply routes, the large amount of new paperwork and regulatory hurdles that a no deal Brexit would create for imports is likely to increase shortages of medicines and medical devices. We can be certain that these additional burdens will mean companies face higher costs to get their products into the UK – costs that will ultimately be passed on to the NHS.
  3. A no deal Brexit will mean UK emigrants to the European Union do not have guaranteed rights, and they may have to return to the United Kingdom to live and receive treatment if they become ill. Around 200,000 people using the special EU scheme that guarantees health care rights to retirees abroad would face losing that protection. It is unclear how many of the roughly 800,000 other UK nationals in Europe might also be unable to access or afford care.
  4. Although an extra £20.5 billion has been pledged to the day-to-day budget of the NHS in England, this does not cover other areas of spending such as investment in buildings, equipment and staff training budgets, which have been reduced in recent years.

Health and care services are already struggling to meet rising demand for services and maintain standards of care, not least in advance of an expected difficult winter. The potential consequences of a no deal Brexit could significantly impede services’ ability to meet the needs of the individual patients and service users who rely on them.

They say to MPs: “As the government launches its public campaign to prepare for a no deal Brexit and MPs return from recess with a short window to discuss the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, we hope this letter helps to inform the important decisions that will be made in the coming days and weeks.”

For full text of letter and references go to www.kingsfund.org.uk

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