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How will Brexit affect nursing and healthcare?

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We asked a team of nurses and student nurses from across the UK for their opinions on the UK voting to leave the EU. Meet The NT Nursing Panel.

Europe flags

Europe flags

1. On balance, do think leaving the EU will be better or worse for the NHS in the short term and the long term?

Helen Croft

Helen Croft

Helen Croft

Current levels of political and economic turmoil following the referendum result create a huge amount of uncertainty for the health of the NHS. In the short-term, an emergency budget could mean a reduction in available income as the country prepares to shore up finances against a period of market volatility. If the short-term view is uncertain then the long-term view is perhaps even more ambiguous. A proposed general election will bring with it potentially a new political direction. Perhaps for me one positive in respect of this is that those who voted to leave did so, in part due to the promise by Brexit campaigners to ensure that monies previously directed to the EU would in fact be spent on the health system. We know, now that it looks as though, people were, in part deceived by this promise. However, politicians will be mindful of this in any future manifesto promises they campaign on. This could result in an election campaign that is heavily focuses on the NHS.
Helen Croft, student nurse

“The NHS is already unable to sustain its current trajectory and needs an overhaul”

Chris Kerr

I think the NHS will be in a considerably worse position if we leave the EU in the long-term. The immediate effects may not be substantial, but in the long-term the NHS is looking at a significant staffing crisis, as well as cuts to research funding and threats to employment rights – such as the working time directive and maternity pay, among others. Nurses stand to be affected by all of these issues, and with recruitment already comprised following the axing of the NHS bursary, this can only get worse.
Sarah Gale, student nurse

The uncertainty around exiting the EU has caused confusion and mayhem, ably assisted by the media. My concern in the short-term is that NHS funding will become even more of a political weapon than it is now. Staff have always been an easy target as they account for a large proportion of NHS expenditure. The cynic in me sees this as an easy win for the government as they probably think they can legitimately freeze pay and increments due to the economic uncertainty after the referendum. In the long-term, the NHS is already unable to sustain its current trajectory and needs an overhaul – that much was evident before the referendum.
Chris Kerr, Darzi Fellow in emergency nursing

It is difficult to predict how the NHS will fare following the decision to leave the EU. I believe that in the short-term nothing much will change. However, in the long-term I feel we have entered into an unknown quantity. Until we know the impact of increased trading costs, with some of our drug companies being within the EU and the effect on overseas workers joining the NHS, nobody can really predict the future. I feel that all these uncertainties first need to be clarified as quickly as possible so the NHS and its workers can move forward.
Carly Callacher, student nurse

“The Leave campaign is bound to have negative impact on the NHS”

Netty Mdluli

In both instances of time the Leave campaign is bound to have negative impacts on the NHS because firstly, from a social perspective, considering that a significant amount of nurses and doctors are from the EU this would spell a prevailing consensus that a foreign exchange of skills and ideas are no longer welcome. Also the NHS already costs £100 billion to run and the leave campaign suggests such a move would release such pressure through the rebates that might be received. However, the recent abandonment of this idea by the leave campaign leaders speaks volumes.
Netty Mdluli, student nurse

2. Do you have any concerns surrounding Brexit and the health service’s current reliance on overseas nurses, many from Europe?

I am greatly concerned about the anti-immigrant sentiment that has surfaced during the EU referendum campaign and has continued since Friday’s result. Overseas nurses make a valuable contribution to our health service and allow us to deliver care that is reflective of the multi-cultural nature of today’s population. I am concerned this sentiment will deter people from coming to the UK to work within our health service and in the long-term could potentially make the process of working in the UK much more difficult, potentially exacerbating an existing staffing crisis.
Helen Croft, student nurse

“Our NHS relies on overseas nurses”

Sarah Gale

Despite arguments suggesting that the numbers of immigrants will effectively cripple the NHS over the next decade, if countries such as Turkey and Syria were to join, the fact is a large proportion of the medical and nursing staff who front our healthcare system are EU migrants. So where will this leave us in the long run if these 50,000 employees, including 18,000 nurses and midwives decide to leave the UK? Our NHS relies on overseas nurses. Without them it will crumble.
Sarah Gale, student nurse

The NHS is supported and propped up by our skilled and invaluable overseas colleagues. Without them the NHS would be even more under-resourced. Just because we have had a referendum it does not make that any less true. The unacceptable behaviours portrayed by those who are stating that Britain vote out purely on the basis of migration is creating a culture where we devalue our overseas colleagues and make them feel they are not welcome. There will always be a need for overseas colleagues and the referendum will not change this need.
Chris Kerr, Darzi Fellow in emergency nursing

I would like to think that regardless of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, our colleagues from overseas will continue to be treated as valued members of our nursing teams. The UK employs nurses from all over the world, many countries of which we are not committed to financially and this does not affect their right to work alongside us. However, with the recent decision to do away with bursaries for nursing students, I do worry about the increasing skill gap. Overseas nurses have been invaluable in filling the gap already evident within the NHS and I hope they will be able to continue doing so.
Carly Callacher, student nurse

“Overseas nurses have been invaluable in filling the skils gap”

Carly Callacher

I perceive its reliance on foreign skills and talent to be an undeniable strength! According to economist David Ricardo, the international distribution of specialist goods and services means increased productivity and also improved allocative efficiency and welfare. On that note, I recall a time in 2002 when the staffing crises required a mass recruitment of nurses from Africa and more recently from Europe to meet the rising demand for skilled workforce. Furthermore the impact of the proposed limit on freedom of movement may have negative impacts on our career prospects abroad given the NMC’s pre registration recommendations of nursing and midwifery students to complete EU directives.
Netty Mdluli, student nurse

3. Do you think a Brexit will result in more money being made available for the NHS, as suggested by the “leave” side prior to the referendum?

Market volatility and the potential for job losses in the private sector will lead to a reduced tax income for the government resulting in less money for the NHS in the short and long term. The NHS was, however, a strong focus of during the leave campaign. People who voted to leave the EU did so, in part on the promise that the NHS would receive monies currently directed to the EU. It would seem that it did not take long for this promise to be retracted by those who campaigned for Brexit. My hope is that politicians take note of this and I can only hope that any future elected government recognise the value that the population as a whole, the leavers and the remainers, have for the NHS.
Helen Croft, student nurse

“Market volatility will lead to reduced tax income for the government”

Helen Croft

The claims from leave supporters that Brexit will free up money for the NHS seems to have been grossly overestimated. Nigel Farage openly backtracked this statement hours after the result was in, claiming it was a mistake. Added to the instability of the economy following the leave vote, the NHS stands to be in a worse position financially if and when we leave the EU. I think that any money that is saved by changes to immigration, will be offset by the massive losses Britain will suffer economically following Brexit.
Sarah Gale, student nurse

I don’t believe there will be any more funding for the NHS by exiting the EU. Staying in would have provided a stability for the NHS. Unfortunately, I have got to the point that I don’t believe anything politicians say any more – especially in relation to funding the NHS. That was made blatantly evident by the U-turn by Nigel Farrage the morning after the result.
Chris Kerr, Darzi Fellow in emergency nursing

The initial promise from the leave campaign was that the NHS would receive the sum paid into the EU by Britain each week. This would have been a huge financial boost which could have helped NHS trusts that are struggling with debt, which in turn is putting our patients at risk. I, however, believe that this will not be the case and actually the increased funding we will see will be a much smaller amount, if in fact we see any. As usual the politicians making these claims will divert the money elsewhere and the NHS will have to continue as it has for many years now.
Carly Callacher, student nurse

“An uncertain economy leads to cuts”

Netty Mdluli

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Netty Mdluli

The leave campaign argued that approximately £350 million was being sent to the EU weekly. Money which could be used to build more hospitals. Yet, as we can see from Nigel Farage’s response, no one ever promised or can say with certainty that such funds would be put back into the NHS. With such uncertainty in the economy and the drop of the FTSE 100 last week, we have lost investment as predicted by several organisations including the IMF, and as we all have seen from recent times an uncertain economy leads to cuts, and less government spending on the NHS.

Netty Mdluli, student nurse

 

Got an opinion you’d like to share? Find out how you can join The NT Nursing Panel by emailing craig.harris@emap.com

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