The Brexit debate continues… and frankly it’s becoming a bit exhausting, not to mention worrying… especially when it comes to the economic uncertainty our country is wrapped up in.
And while politicians are still trying to stumble out of the post-Brexit referendum fog, more and more people are beginning to question what, if any, impact it will have on our National Health Service (NHS).
Brexit: saviour or savage?
One of the central arguments for leaving the European Union (EU) was that it would ‘save’ the NHS. But just how watertight was this argument?
Some might argue that with smaller immigration numbers on the cards, the NHS will take less strain ? saving some cash on resources, improving surgery and A&E waiting times and making services more efficient.
However, anyone who works in the UK pays a contribution (national insurance) towards public services, including the NHS. So the downside is, smaller immigration numbers will mean less national insurance contributions and less money going towards the NHS.
These national insurance contributions also open up the fact that EU citizens made their contribution towards health services and that as a member of the EU, Britain was also allowed to recoup costs for treating EU nationals on the NHS.
So, was immigration really such a significant financial strain on the NHS?
Having said that, as we know the reality was that the UK was owed far more than it received in rebates each year from the EU. And it is estimated that the ‘gap’ between what we are owed and what we actually received was about £600million a year.
So, let’s look at some numbers again:
The UK’s membership for the EU was about £15bn a year. From that, rebates, grants and subsides came back to us to the sum of just over £7bn, which left us with a net cost of EU membership of £8bn per year.
Now that we’ve left the EU the argument is that we have £15bn back in our pockets. And with this extra cash we can easily meet the current NHS funding shortfall, right?
However, in the chaotic aftermath of last Friday’s referendum results, it became very clear, very quickly that the reality of the future of our health services will not be quite as simple, because the promised increase in funding the NHS would’ve received now may not be a reality at all.
This means that the current annual running cost of the NHS is still £100 billion and it will still face a projected £30bn shortfall by 2020.
Adding to that, currently about 10 per cent of doctors and other health professionals are coming from the EU. But with a restriction on the free movement of people across the EU, the NHS may not be able to recruit doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare professionals so easily.
And let’s face it, it’s just a simple fact of life that the NHS is heavily reliant on skilled overseas workers in order to keep it afloat.
So, I cannot help but wonder whether Brexit was nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
Only time will tell.
For now, we can only hope that the negotiations that lie ahead will be done with more thought and planning than what we’ve seen so far.
Whatever the outcome we must always remember that our national health service is like no other in the world. No other country operates a system quite like it whereby healthcare is entirely free at the point of access and entirely funded by taxpayer’s money… and we need to ensure that our tax money is spent in the right way to keep the NHS afloat.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.