The health and wellbeing of people in the UK would “almost certainly” suffer if there is a vote to leave the European Union, public health experts have claimed.
The Faculty of Public Health, which has 3,800 members, said EU legislation on the environment, consumer safety, food quality, human rights and social policy has “powerfully” contributed to better health and wellbeing.
“It would almost certainly be detrimental to people’s health”
In a report published today it said the UK benefited substantially from EU funding for public health research, contributing 11% of the research budget and receiving 16% in return.
It added that 10% of the UK’s health and social care workforce are from EU member countries, with free movement of citizens helping to plug staffing gaps.
EU investment in poorer regions was described in the report as “extremely valuable” in supporting growth, creating jobs and tackling inequality, with “no guarantee” that the UK would plug funding shortfalls in the future.
The report also highlighted that the EU Social Chapter was providing generous maternity and paternity leave, as well as protecting workers’ rights.
Professor John Ashton, Faculty of Public Health president, admitted there was little evidence on the health impact of the UK leaving the EU, but concluded it would have a negative effect “on the balance of probability”.
Leaving EU would be ‘detrimental’ to public health
He said: “Our analysis suggests that it would almost certainly be detrimental to people’s health in the UK for us to leave the EU. Remaining in the EU would be in the best interests of everyone’s health and wellbeing.
“Our analysis is that it is better for the UK to remain a team player within Europe, where we benefit from shared intelligence, response and action,” he added.
Public health responsibilities were transferred from the NHS to local government and Public Health England in 2013.
The Local Government Association has said government funding for public health will be cut by 9.7%, or £331m in cash terms, by 2020. This follows a cut of £200m in 2015.