United Kingdom exit from the European Union (EU) is posing risks to the National Health Service (NHS) workforce, its finances, and the licensing of medical products, and to health and scientific research.
This warning comes in a Health Policy review Journal published, in The Lancet. The authors highlighted that each of the Brexit scenarios: soft Brexit (a similar agreement to countries in the EEA, with access to single market but restrictions on free movement of people), hard Brexit (a free trade agreement between the UK and EU), and failed Brexit (falling back on World Trade Organisation rules) pose major risks to health, which will require serious considerations that should be incorporated into Brexit negotiations.
Seven authors examined the effects on the NHS of three possible Brexit scenarios. They claims that even under a soft Brexit there are serious issues that government and policy makers need to consider, including NHS financing, workforce recruitment and retention, public health legislation, and the licencing of medical products. According to the research, after Brexit it will be increasingly difficult for the UK to recruit sufficient NHS and social care staff.
Another risk highlighted in the Journal was the loss of funding to the NHS, which could occur directly through loss of European funds and indirectly as a result of the possible impact of Brexit on the UK economy. Since 2001, the NHS has benefitted from €3.5 billion in funds from the European Investment Bank. Also, the NHS forms the largest part of the UK’s public expenditure and would naturally be impacted by any events, which affect the UK economy.
The authors note that it will be increasingly difficult for the UK to be self-sufficient in terms of its NHS and social care workforce.
Responding to the Journal, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that Brexit is an unknown quantity for the NHS, along with many other sectors. The latest analysis paints a bleak picture and urgent action is needed to ensure these predictions don't become a reality.
Nick Fahy, the lead author said that Health is often thought to be a purely national matter, relatively insulated from the consequences of Brexit.
The analysis shows that leaving the EU will have wide-ranging impacts on NHS. These must be tackled now if the consequences of Brexit are not to be borne by the sick and the vulnerable, he added.
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