How is Brexit likely to impact the NHS? | Autonomy Scotland

How is Brexit likely to impact the NHS?

Who could forget the claim about NHS funding that the Brexiteers plastered on the side of a bus during the EU referendum?

According to them, the NHS could simply be £350 million a day better off just by the UK leaving the EU. Even at the time, the claim seemed too simplistic to be true. It was based on the theory that the UK was just throwing money away to the EU without getting value back in return. That the UK didn’t somehow benefit from the shared markets and institutions that the money helped fund.

As we negotiate our departure, it has become clear just how important being part of the European community is to our industries and organisations. This is just as true for the NHS as it is for the financial industry or our farmers.

Recently, the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, has published a study looking at the likely impact of three different Brexit scenarios on the NHS. They found that even with a soft-Brexit, the NHS is likely to suffer but that a hard-Brexit and a no-deal scenario were far worse prospects.

As things stand, with Labour all over the place on Brexit and refusing to form a soft-Brexit coalition, the least damaging scenario looks exceedingly unlikely. In fact, I would say that a no-deal is where we are heading as I can’t see a deal being struck that every country in Europe will agree to. Especially with intractable issues such as the Irish border to be resolved.

Here is a summary of the main points contained in the Lancet article.

The Lancet concludes:

We offer three key messages on the potential effects of Brexit on health. First, the effects of Brexit are wide-ranging, touching every building block of a health system as described in the WHO Health System Framework. Second, these effects on health range from somewhat negative to very negative, with few opportunities. Third, the effects depend on what type of Brexit is pursued; the harder the Brexit, the worse the effects, with no deal being the worst of all. They present a challenge for the Brexit negotiations, as their scale could vary widely according to how the UK leaves the EU and could influence the basis of future EU-UK relations. Brexit is also a fundamental challenge for health policy within the UK. Intentionally or not, Brexit will reshape the health system in the UK in a variety of ways, and much momentum in the coming years will be stalled, as existing arrangements are reworked and adapted for the new situation. The impacts on the workforce of the NHS and on people depending on reciprocal health-care arrangements will be substantial, and potentially devastating for the individuals involved. However, the largest impact on the health system is likely to come from Brexit’s impact on the wider economy, on the ability of the state to function, and thus on the ability of the UK to finance the health service.

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