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'Brexit is no quick fix for the NHS’s problems'


It’s less than two weeks until the UK decides whether to stay in the EU.

Opinion polls say it’s too close to call but many voters remain undecided. As politicians on both sides fi ght to gain the upper hand, the arguments are really hotting up and the NHS is being used as a tool to persuade people to vote for “Brexit”.

Wannabe prime minister Boris Johnson, along with his fellow Vote Leave campaigners, claims removing ourselves from Europe would free up £350m a week for the health service. Chair of the health select committee, conservative MP and former GP Sarah Wollaston was so angered by these claims that she U-turned and is now voting to remain instead.

If MPs argue over the “facts” and can’t make up their minds, then what hope has the average UK voter got to weigh up the pros and cons?

To help you navigate your way through the slings and arrows of both sides of the argument, and understand how leaving or staying will impact you, your pay, the health service and your patients, our news team has polled readers (read the story here) and put together an analysis of the key factors that might be swaying you one way or another (the story here).

Even if the claims that leaving the EU would give us £350m a week are true, and all of that were to be spent on the NHS, it won’t happen instantly. The referendum isn’t legally binding, but if Mr Cameron followed the wishes of an electorate that wanted to exit, it would still take an Act of Parliament to extricate the UK from Europe. And you know how long that might take.

The NHS card is played every time the public heads to the polls. But there are no quick fi xes for the service. There aren’t enough trained nurses, yet the government is cutting bursary funding and slashing post-registration budgets by 40%. This will exacerbate the shortage as the profession struggles to retain its brightest and best nurses who want to maintain their skills and continue their professional development.

So while the politicians are promising more money to the NHS, don’t assume that if you put your X in the box marked “leave” on 23 June, every trust in the country will receive a cash injection the following day and you’ll have an infl ux of nurses and resources. You won’t. And that’s just about the only fact I am sure of in this debate. 

Happy decision making.


Readers' comments (2)

  • michael stone

    I'm sick of this one - 'politician' and 'evidence' are words which do not fit in the same sentence ! Politician and disingenuous, however, do !

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  • michael stone

    Dr Margaret McCartney has just published a piece 'Margaret McCartney: Misinformation in the EU debate' in the BMJ (published today) at:

    She comments in it:

    'in two hours of online searching I found nothing resembling a rational, understandable explanation of what is fact and what is approximation.'


    'Misinformation on the EU flies as frequently and viciously as the Scottish summer midge'

    I'm a bit surprised, that Margaret even bothered to try and separate 'what is fact and what is approximation [or worse]' from the politicians involved in this debate - although Margaret is very keen on 'facts' to work from.

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