Health sector leaders fear no-deal Brexit ‘disaster’

16 Jan 19

A no-deal Brexit would be a “real disaster” for the healthcare sector, MPs have heard.

Health group leaders voiced fears to the health and social care select committee yesterday that there would be a drop in funding for the NHS if the EU left the European Union without a deal. 

They gave evidence on the day MPs debated and eventually rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal by 230 votes, which was a historic defeat for a sitting government. 

This still leaves the possibility of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal, the withdrawal date being less than three months away on the 29 March.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust think-tank, told the select committee yesterday “a major change in inflation” as a result of a no-deal Brexit  would change the amount of money coming to the NHS.

He told MPs on Tuesday that there would be “price moves” in the event of inflation due to a no-deal Brexit, which his organisation calculates would require an £2bn for the NHS annually.  

“From an NHS point of view, the phrase ‘no-deal is better than a bad deal’ is probably not true.”

Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation think-tank, raised concern that some of the £20.5bn allocated to the NHS until 2023-24 may be taken away in the event of no-deal.

She asked: “If the economy is really taking a hit, to what extent is the £20bn safe?”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of membership organisation NHS Confederation, said: “There’s no doubt in our minds that no-deal is a real disaster - certainly in the short to medium term.”

Analysis by the Bank of England predicted that a no-deal scenario could lead to 9.3% slower growth in the UK’s economy over the next 15 years, than if it would be if the UK stayed in the EU.

Richard Murray, chief executive of the King’s Fund think-tank, said: “It is almost unbelievable that this would happen in an advanced economy, to face a threat like this.”

Discussing the NHS long-term plan, which was published in early January, the panel expresse

Dickson claimed there was a “missed opportunity” to publish the social care green paper alongside the plan and said NHS Confederation would “try to bring [social care and health] back together again at a local level”.

He added it was not clear how the plan “will actually be implemented at a local level”. “It’s a good plan, but I’m not sure we understand the relationship between the centre and the locale.”

Murray highlighted a lack of health staff as a potential problem in the delivery of the long-term plan. 

“I think it’s the workforce that is going to give you the answer on deliverability. It’s around the workforce that it’s going to trip up, if it’s going to trip up anywhere,” he said.

A workforce plan for the NHS will be published later in 2019, according to NHS England.

The Local Government Association previously warned that the long-term plan was a “missed opportunity” to clarify plans on the social care sector.  

Last week, Scottish Parliament was told a no-deal Brexit could cause lasting damage to the UK economy.
In early January, health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons he “intends” to publish the social care green paper before April.

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