Brexit could be bad for your health

Credit: NHS Confederation

Brexit has serious implications for the NHS.

The ways it could disrupt health and social care services are spelt out in a leaflet from the NHS Confederation that represents all levels of the National Health Service.

In this statement on behalf of more than 560 organisations – “drawn from every part of the health and care system”- it expressed concerns that a weakened economy could shrink the NHS planned budget by £2.8bn by 2019/20.

With about 144,000 EU nationals working in health and social care in England, the Confederation wants the Government to reduce uncertainty and thereby ensure that the NHS can maintain standards of care.

A newly formed Cavendish Coalition of organisations from across the health and social care spectrum has been created to ensure a sustainable workforce so that standards of care are maintained as Britain withdraws from the EU.

The NHS Confederation also notes the need to ensure that the 1.2 million UK citizens, including pensioners, living in EU countries can continue to receive safe and seamless healthcare.

When asked about how these multiple concerns will be brought to the attention of the UK Government, a spokesman for NHS Confederation said, “leaving the EU and negotiating a new relationship will be a long process and our leaflet is just the first step of our work to brief decision makers on possible implications for the NHS.  We will continue our analysis of possible implications over the coming months and will brief politicians and others in due course.”

The Confederation leaflet also recognises that, “having a single EU medical regulation system has enabled new health technologies to be brought to market sooner for the benefit of patients.”

This resonates strongly which the view of the healthcare industries.   As reported in last week, 97 per cent of respondents to an Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI) survey want to retain European regulations that control the safety and efficacy of their products, which include orthopaedic and vascular prostheses, pacemakers and surgical instruments.

NHS Confederation does not exclude working with industry on issues where their interests overlap.  “On working with industry, we are willing to understand their views on Brexit first before considering any possible collaboration”, their spokesman said.

The 600,000 patients recruited onto clinical studies by NHS organisations in 2015 show the importance of EU clinical trials for NHS trusts and patients to develop and access innovative, life-saving treatments.

Brexit should not become a barrier to accessing the latest medical care, the NHS Confederation says.

By John Egan