How will leaving the EU now affect the NHS?

Last week it was revealed that Britain is leaving the EU after the controversial referendum. Having been busy revising for my a-level examinations which are now thankfully over, I had not taken much consideration into what effects Brexit could have. Having researched into the multitude of consequences it is clear that the NHS is a main issue that leaving the EU will effect.

The potential impact on the NHS is still unknown. Although it is almost certain that the NHS will not be receiving significant extra funding, despite promises that Brexit will mean saving £350 million a week. Nigel Farage admitted the promise was inaccurate himself. In reality the NHS could face less funding due to the economic uncertainty that leaving the EU has posed. Indeed 135,000 EU migrants are employed by the NHS, and now Britain is leaving the EU they may choose to exit as well. Will the UK be able to cope with fewer doctors and nurses and even longer waiting times? Sir Bruce Keogh has said that, “If you are a European doctor or nurse you might not feel too welcome at the moment,” hence it is, “really important we make them feel welcome.”

Diagram from the guardian showing who the NHS employs.
Diagram from the guardian showing who the NHS employs.

It is apparent that the EU sustains the NHS in various ways. Dr Mark Porter, BMA chief claims that “Anyone who attacks the contribution to this country of people from around the world, attacks us all. They attack many of us personally, but they attack every one of us, because the health service we love would not exist without their contribution.” However, Brexit did predict that migration could have meant a 4.25 million population increase by 2030, which would have hastened demand for services such as A&E by 46%. This supports the argument still that we have a blurred vision for our health prospects.

Some argue that Brexit will now make it easier for the UK government to make changes to those employed in the NHS. Nevertheless, having been a member of the EU, Britain had to abide to principles such as the European Working Time Directive which warrants that employees are not overworked. Without rights and rules enforced upon Britain, will workers still be offered fair working hours, rights, maternity and paternity leave? In addition, Britain now has no influence over the European Medicines Agency, a key organisation which regulates the approval of the uses of different drugs.

So overall, leaving the EU is going to impact our health service significantly. It could potentially bring more money into the NHS, but conversely could spell the end of the NHS. The referendum has definitely imposed an unknown future onto the NHS; we can only hope that our future health care is sustainable with a new Brexit government leading.

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