NHS leaders fear negative impact of Brexit, survey says

26 May 16

The majority of NHS leaders think Brexit would have a negative impact on the UK’s health services, according to a survey by NHS Providers.

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The association surveyed a sample of 45 chairs and chief executives working in hospital, ambulance, mental health and community trusts, marking the first time frontline NHS leadership has been asked for collective opinion.

Three quarters (75%) of respondents stated that leaving the European Union would have a negative effect on the NHS as a whole.

No respondents felt that leaving the EU would have a positive impact. However, two in five (42%) said there could be beneficial effects on the procurement and competition rules affecting their trusts.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said that, while the survey is not an exit poll and the association doesn’t claim it to be extensive research, it does “show the strength of feeling on what could be a generation-defining decision”.

He said: “Our survey shows the concern NHS leaders have about a range of issues if the UK were to exit the EU. High up on this list is the impact on recruiting staff and access to funding for research and innovation.”

Eight out of 10 (80%) respondents felt that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on trusts’ ability to recruit health and social care staff.

In severely short staffed professions like nursing and care work, the NHS is heavily reliant on employees from Europe.

The same proportion of respondents believed that a vote to exit would limit access to funding for research and innovation. In terms of funding overall however, more thought there would be little or no impact. Two fifths (40%) agreed with this, while over a third (38%) felt there would be some or a very negative impact.

Two thirds of leaders (65%) thought access to shared learning, knowledge from clinical trials, networks or other research and innovation would also suffer.

NHS Providers’ findings follow comments last weekend from two former NHS chief executives, Nigel Crisp and David Nicholson, and the current chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens.

Echoing a favourite Remain camp phrase, Crisp and Nicholson dubbed Brexit a “leap in the dark”, while Stevens warned a vote to leave would be “very dangerous” for the service.

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