27th June 2016

How Brexit affects the NHS?

How Brexit affects the NHS?


The NHS has emerged as the key battleground in the UK’s membership of European Union. The Brexit so called for the British leaving the EU campaign have raised the most debated issue of the time in the most desired healthcare system. Will this help or hinder the NHS?

Medical standards

A common professional healthcare standard was agreed across the EU countries in 2013, setting out the general requirements in terms of qualifications, training and competencies. The regulatory bodies like Nursing and Midwifery Council, General Medical Council etc. in the UK requires to monitor and ensure healthcare workers from across the border of member states. If Britain leaves the EU, the UK will need something similar to safeguard the profession and the public. Something that is stronger than the previous and acceptable to the EU legislation.

Medical Workers

As a EU country, we were benefitted of huge numbers of EU medical workforce in our health service and we had rights to receive free health care in other member states.

4.5% of total workforce in the NHS is from EEA countries. Ejecting these vital sources of skills and expertise certainly might create a short-term staffing crisis in the NHS with a damaging patient service delivery. A sustainable approach to a workforce planning with UK based health care training instead of skilled migration and then with a government planning on ending training bursaries and squeezing NHS funding might not head for a weighty turnaround anytime soon.

Also, increasing real pay and competitiveness in the private sector has created a competition over a limited and conditioned public sector employment.

Cross-border healthcare costs and complexity

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) covers around £340m of cost for treating EEA visitors and non-permanent residents in a year. In shared arrangements, UK citizens have accessed more free treatments in EU countries.

If Brexit campaign goes successful, a UK citizen will cost a big health insurance even for short trip in Europe. The UK retirees in EU countries will hit by a large medical bills.

The expensive new system so to be introduced soon are said to be charging non EEA migrants specifically frontline healthcare professionals for managing the process. The new plan seeks a multi-million pounds IT system while deterring migrant patients with serious infections. This means a huge expectation and greater demands from the NHS and increased risk to public health.

The collaboration, funding and innovation

The UK has access to a range of EU funding for research, development and innovation. In 2014/15 the UK received the largest funds of around £232m from Horizon 2020, a 5-year investments for research into health and well-being. There are other million worth funding provided for higher education, NHS organisations and innovative organisations in the UK.

As a EU country, the UK could also access to various Europe shared healthcare organisations such as cross-border co-operation in HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and Tuberculosis etc.

It has been said that the savings made through Brexit reinvestment will be decided on the unprecedented long financial squeeze on the NHS.

NHS Revenue

Obvious there is high risk of savings hindered away by the economic impact of Brexit. Half of the UK’s trade is with EU member states. The Brexit would swift the whole economy and a great uncertainties of economic forecasting. The exit from EU will innate a new renegotiation trade deals in new regulations of movements for migrants.

Economists have predicted adverse impact on UK’s economy. Given the demographic and cost pressures will tax funded NHS be able to cope with the reduced tax revenues?

The Rights and Regulations

Employment rights under EU legislation that promotes health and well being at work and home support many long-term goals of the NHS.

Agenda for Change staff, Working Time Directive assisted professionals on relevant regular working patterns. EU-derived regulations like equal pay and conditional leaves for safeguarding professionals.

Other EU regulations include food regulations for consumers to safe food with accurate and honest information, tobacco controls, quality and safe human organs like blood cells etc.

The British leaving the European Union is in much debate. The level of impact on the NHS and public health is unpredictable for even if the negotiation went well, NHS is still going to hit hard for a big turn.

Find more about Brexit on our daily updated Blog page.