End to EU healthcare arrangements ‘could cost NHS extra £500m’

16 Oct 17

An end to mutual healthcare arrangements between the UK and EU would cost the NHS an extra £500m a year, the Brexit Health Alliance has warned. 

With Brexit talks stalling and amid increasing talk of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, the alliance set out the effect of a worst-case scenario in which there was an end to reciprocal healthcare arrangements.

A total of 190,000 pensioners currently live in the EU and an unknown proportion of these could have no choice but to return to the UK if a deal over healthcare arrangements is not struck.

The Brexit Health Alliance cited Nuffield Trust analysis, which estimated an extra 1,600 nurses would be needed to deal with returning pensioners, as well as doctors, other health professionals and support staff.

The Nuffield Trust has also put the costs at £500m – an extra £1bn to care for everyone who might return the UK minus £500m that would not longer need to be paid to European health systems under the current scheme.

Niall Dickson, co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance, said: “Our report sets out what could happen if we were to see an end to the mutually beneficial healthcare arrangements between the UK and the EU.

“This is likely to mean not only more red tape and inconvenience for millions of Britons and Europeans, but could mean more pressure on our health and care system if many of those living elsewhere in Europe felt they had to return.”

Dickson, who is also a member of CIPFA’s Brexit Advisory Commission for Public Services, added: “Patients stand to lose out dramatically if UK nationals travelling to and living in the EU are no longer able to benefit from free healthcare and EU citizens will also lose out by not being able to get free healthcare here.”

The alliance also warned that tourists and business travellers could face significant additional costs in travel insurance as they would no longer be able to use the European Health Insurance Card. For those with existing health problems, travel insurance could become unaffordable.

The Brexit Health Alliance brings together the NHS, medical research, the pharmaceutical and healthcare devices industries with patients and public health organisations. Its work is intended to complement the Cavendish Coalition, which is looking at the staffing implications in health and social care arising from Brexit.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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