Brexit- the NHS Situation

Published: 24 June 2016

Throughout the EU referendum campaign the NHS has been a significant issue, as it often is, the NHS has been used as a political football and it is unlikely to change now that we have taken the decision to leave the EU. 

The NHS is intrinsically tied to the EU and it is going to be a turbulent time while we watch the impact of the leave vote unfold. 

Many feel the Leave campaign pulled on the heartstrings of out voters by suggesting if the UK were to leave the EU there would be “£350 million a week to spend on the NHS”, while some were sceptical about this statement,  for many this could have been a deciding factor in their vote to leave. By 9am today Nigel Farrage described the campaign’s decision to use this statement as a mistake.  Sarah Wollaston, Commons health committee chair Tweeted this morning that she will challenge leavers in the next government over this claim during their campaign. 

PwC has already suggested that the “impact of Brexit will be felt across the NHS” and have stated the "The NHS is facing unprecedented financial difficulty and needs a long-term sustainable funding settlement to allow it to navigate the real challenges it faces. This result makes that less likely as we face the very real prospect of economic uncertainty.”

Earlier in June, the attendees of the annual NHS Confed in Manchester left with a feeling that 16/17 would be one of the most challenging years the NHS has faced and that funding was going to be a continuing problem with the levels of change needed.  As David Cameron exits number 10 and discussions continue of a new general election in 2017, HSJ Editor Alastair McLellan has questioned if there could be a chance for Simon Stephens to renegotiate the £8bn of NHS funding. 

Brexit campaigners have come out on top and despite the feelings from remain voters, the most important action will be for the NHS as a whole, from its leaders to its front line staff, to pull together. It is vital that we stress to the thousands of NHS workers from outside the UK that they are valued and needed. Already the right steps are being taken, Sir Bruce Keogh, has called on “NHS leaders to send out a message to European staff working in the health service that they are valued and welcome in the wake of the EU Referendum result.” While Danny Mortimer has also called for “leaders across the NHS need to let the EU nationals in their teams know how valued this contribution will continue to be. Politicians for their part need to make clear their commitment to the continued contribution of these valued colleagues to our health and care services.”

Staffing pressures are higher than ever and our health service relies heavily on skilled caring workers from outside the UK to support the NHS, we now need to show solidarity and work together to ensure critical services are delivered to the highest level possible.

Helen Childs is a consultant in the Healthcare Practice, she specialises in leadership appointments in the NHS

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