Almost two thirds of nurses think the NHS will deteriorate after Brexit, according to a new YouGov poll.
The survey of more than 700 nurses shows 62% believe the health service will worsen when the UK leaves the European Union, expressing concerns about recruitment, waiting times and quality of care.
“Since the Brexit referendum, our NHS colleagues have been treated appallingly”
The events that have unfolded since the 2016 referendum have also caused some nurses to change their mind about Brexit, the ballot suggests.
Of the nurses who responded to the survey, 57% said they had supported Remain in the vote and 32% Leave. If those nurses were to vote again today, 65% said they would elect to stay in the EU and 24% would want to exit.
The results also stand in stark contrast to a poll of more than 500 nurses conducted by Nursing Times ahead of the referendum two years ago.
Of those who responded to the original survey by Nursing Times, 43% said they would vote to leave the EU, while 41% said they intended on voting to remain. A further 15% had not yet made up their minds.
Danielle Tiplady, an NHS nurse and campaigner, voted to leave in 2016. However, Ms Tiplady said had become “increasingly uncomfortable” with the handling of the Brexit negotiations and feared the UK was being led “off a cliff edge”.
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She added: “Since the Brexit referendum, our NHS colleagues have been treated appallingly by this government with an intentionally created hostile environment.
“This is driving EU nurses away from the UK at a time when we have 42,000 nursing vacancies,” she said. “It is shameful how unwelcome they have been made to feel when they simply come here to help care for the nation.”
Just over half of nurses quizzed by YouGov thought the average time a patient will need to wait to be treated at their local accident and emergency department will lengthen after Brexit.
In addition, 54% said they believed the overall quality of care of the NHS in their area would worsen.
The poll also showed the extent to which nurses were worried about the impact the divorce will have on the workforce, with 72% fearing it will get harder for their local hospital to recruit and keeping the number of doctors and nurses it needs.
The majority (86%) of nurses agree that overseas doctors and nurses were needed to keep the NHS running.
Dr Charles House, consultant radiologist at University College London Hospitals who also voted leave in the June 2016 referendum, said: “Brexit leaves less money available to spend on our NHS – and other public services – I’ve seen this causing more restriction of services and longer waits for patients to receive treatment.
“We are already short of 40,000 nurses in the NHS and the damaging effect of Brexit has made it much tougher and more costly to find new recruits,” he said. ”I’ve experienced the unrelenting pressure this puts on our NHS teams, day in, day out.”
A key line used by those leading the pro Brexit campaign during the referendum campaign two years ago – which was painted across the side of buses – was that the £350m the UK sent to the EU each week could be diverted to the NHS.
“The damaging effect of Brexit has made it much tougher and more costly to find new recruits”
The new poll shows 79% of nurse respondents now believe this statement was not true and of those, 83% think it was a deliberate lie.
More widely, 63% of polled nurses fear Britain’s economy will be weaker outside of the EU, 54% think their standard of living will worsen and 60% believe taxes will go up.
In regard to immigration, 61% of nurses think people from the EU should be free to come to Britain as long as they have a job to come to or have a place at a British university, while 19% want to see freedom of movement continue. On the other hand, 12% agree that the number of people relocating from the EU to Britain for whatever reason should sharply reduce.
The YouGov poll shows 84% of nurses believe that promises made by Brexiteers in the lead up to the 2016 vote will be broken, while 77% think Britain will crash out of the EU with a poor deal.
The survey was commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, which is calling for a public vote on the final Brexit deal. The results show 57% of nurses would support such a vote.