The 3 biggest issues facing the NHS after Brexit

Written by: Prospect Health
Published on: 1 Sep 2016


1. Staffing

Currently approximately 55,000 workers within our health system come from EU countries (source: Kings Fund). The NHS is finding it difficult to recruit permanent staff. Currently, EU workers still retain the rights to work in the EU and the freedom of movement act still holds.

However, what will happen once this renegotiation takes place? The government needs to ensure EU nationals can still retain the right to work in the UK and possibly open gates to other NHS occupations and nationalities to the current shortage list.


2. Money available for the NHS

Remember the notorious campaign created by the VOTE LEAVE campaign? "We send £350 million a week overseas, let's fund our NHS instead". Many of the people associated with this claim have now backed away from the statement. The economic shock associated with leaving the EU will put any increase in funding for the NHS at risk. According to the Independent, the economy has already contracted by 0.2% in the time following the Brexit vote (Source: Independent). If this decline continues, the economy could slip into recession with additional pressure being put on our already stretched public spending.

The decline in the strength of the pound has already had an impact on the NHS, making any drugs, services or equipment the NHS buys from aboard more expensive.


3. Access to treatment in the UK and abroad

The UK holds a reciprocal agreement with other EU countries, meaning if you visit an EU country you can receive free medical treatment that the host country can claim back from the residents own country.

Would an end to this agreement mean an influx of the older retired generation of UK citizens now residing in EU countries (approximately 1.2 million of them, Source: Kings Fund) putting additional pressure on NHS resources?

Another school of thought eludes to the benefit of a younger migrant community who live and work in the UK. They will not put as much pressure on NHS resources as UK citizens who are on average older and therefore use the NHS more frequently.


The Department of Health, already depleted of staff due to funding cuts, now has to find the resource to pick its way through EU legislation and decide what it needs to renegotiate or redefine with UK alternatives. Whatever happens, a long drawn out process follows, with uncertain time ahead for the NHS.


To read the full article from Prospect Health, please click here.