Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Brexit ‘worst case scenario’ could deepen nursing shortage


Pressure on the NHS and the current shortage of nursing staff could be exacerbated by reciprocal healthcare demands, if the government fails to agree a deal over Brexit, according to a new report.

The report, published by a group of healthcare organisations under the banner of the Brexit Health Alliance, warned that patients could suffer dramatically if Brexit ended the current healthcare arrangements in place between the UK and the rest of the European Union.

“This is likely to mean not only more red tape and inconvenience, but could mean more pressure on our health and care system”

Niall Dickson

The report – titled Maintaining reciprocal healthcare for patients after Brexit – focused on what Brexit could mean for services in light of UK citizens who needed healthcare in another EU country, or EU citizens who required treatment while in the UK.

Specifically, it considered what might happen to patients if a satisfactory Brexit deal was not reached, which it dubbed “the worst case scenario”.

The alliance warned that in this situation an unknown proportion of the 190,000 UK pensioners currently living in the EU could have little choice but to return to the UK.

If they all returned home after reciprocal healthcare arrangements stopped, it said an extra 190,000 people could require hospital beds and 1,600 nurses, as well as doctors, other healthcare staff.

It would also lead to more “red tape”, said the report, as the current system for EU citizens is more streamlined than the way the UK manage payments and administration for other overseas patients.

The alliance said that if British people abroad could no longer get reciprocal healthcare rights it could cost the NHS up to £500m a year – based on analysis by the Nuffield Trust think-tank.

Individually, it suggested travel insurance for visiting Europe could become unaffordable for UK citizens with existing conditions if they could no longer use the European Health Insurance Card.

Uninsured holidaymakers or people travelling on business could also face big bills if they fall ill or have an accident requiring emergency care, it warned.

The alliance called on the Brexit negotiators on both sides to take steps to make sure that such a “worst case scenario” did not come about.

niall dickson

niall dickson

Source: Neil O’Connor

Niall Dickson

Niall Dickson, co-chair of the alliance and chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Our report sets out what could happen if we were to see an end to the mutually beneficial healthcare arrangements between the UK and the EU.

“This is likely to mean not only more red tape and inconvenience for millions of Britons and Europeans, but could mean more pressure on our health and care system if many of those living elsewhere in Europe felt they had to return,” he said.

He added: “We want to see a Brexit settlement that will allow existing or similar arrangements to continue to benefit patients and those who provide their care.”

The Brexit Health Alliance comprises a range of organisations from the NHS, medical research, the pharmaceutical and healthcare devices industries, and patient and public health representatives.

It is intended to complement the work of the Cavendish Coalition, which is concerned with the staffing and workforce implications in health and social care of Brexit.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Doremouse

    All warning of what will happen. We got that daily pre referendum & after the UK is in a good position.
    In the 27 remaining EU countries there are 1.2 million Brits
    In the UK there are 3.2 million EU citizens from 27 EU countries
    We managed very well before we were tricked into the COMMON MARKET and we will do very well after March 2019 when we will make the decisions regarding our country again

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The reduction in EU nurses entering the NMC Register is 99% connected to the ridiculous English requirements put in place by the NMC in January 2016 and 1% because of Brexit. If all us native speakers were to attempt the IELTS exam tomorrow most of us would fail to reach the NMC requirement. If the required grade was reduced from a 7 to a 6.5 we would see a dramatic increase in the number of EU nurses entering the NMC Register and a zero effect on patient safety based on English Competencies.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.