A ‘no deal’ Brexit ‘would seriously damage NHS’

17 Nov 17

A ‘no deal’ Brexit would do “serious damage” to an already overstretched NHS, a charity has said.

The Nuffield Trust has warned failing to guarantee the rights of EU staff, achieving a solution to the Northern Ireland border issue and securing access to new drugs and medial equipment could mean soaring costs for the NHS after Brexit.

Mark Dayan, report author, said: “Many different parts of EU law and EU institutions play an important role in enabling healthcare to be delivered to the standards we see today.

“Suddenly ending them with no replacement would do serious damage to an already strained NHS.”

The Nuffield Trust report, out last week, stated that unless EU staff working in the NHS and social care sector felt their rights were secure there could be an exodus of these workers.

There has already been a 96% drop in EU nurses registering in the UK after the Brexit vote, as reported by Public Finance.

Dayan noted not getting a deal sorted by March 2019 could see the UK lose out on funds from the EU’s €77bn [£68bn] Horizon 2020 programme, which has funnelled €420m [£373m] into British health research.

The report stated that delays or charges at the Northern Ireland border could drive up prices of the supplies the NHS relies upon, or risk the loss of vital products with a limited shelf life, such as radioisotopes.

The Nuffield Trust was also concerned a ‘no deal’ scenario would mean expat pensioners, who access healthcare under EU schemes, felt forced to return to the UK for treatment - potentially requiring up to £500m more in annual spending, and 1,000 extra hospital beds.

Although, it also highlighted areas where the health service could potentially benefit from the UK’s departure from the EU.

Areas suggested in the report where the NHS could have greater flexibility after Brexit included the opportunity to loosen the restrictions on the 48-hour weekly limit on doctors work under the Working Time Directive, which could free up time for training.

Earlier this year CIPFA set up a Brexit Advisory Commission to investigate the potential impact exiting membership of the EU could have on public services.

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