What will Brexit mean to you and your treatment in the NHS

Posted on: June 27th, 2016

So the dust is settling and a week on from the referendum everyone wants to know what is really going to happen.  With article 50 taking 2 years to invoke, it will take some time for the UK to know what the NHS and UK Healthcare will look like. 

We all heard the figure of “giving £20bn a year or £350m a week to Brussels”.  We won’t consider the accuracy of these figures but simply consider that some of the money going out, may not in the future. One figure suggests the net figure for membership of the EU is £7.3bn a year or £140m a week. 

One source suggested this might be enough to build one new hospital every two weeks.  Of course that does not account for staff or running costs but if we consider that the average turnover for an NHS trust in a major city such as Southampton is £500 million, the money saved, if available for sole use by the NHS could operate a major trust every 3 weeks. 

Unfortunately, only time will tell what the savings are and where any money saved can be redirected.  So Brexit could mean more money back for healthcare here in the NHS, but that’s only if these figures can be saved and the Government directs the same back into public health. 

The question is therefore, what can more money do?  Yes it can build more hospitals, employ more staff, get the right equipment to everyone that needs it, and in general get the waiting lists down and everyone in front of the right specialist.  Yes a 7 day NHS is entirely possible with the right level of investment and dedicated staff to implement it. 

So what did the NHS say about Brexit?  

It would be very dangerous if at precisely the moment the NHS is going to need extra funding actually the economy goes into a tailspin and that funding is not there

said Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England.

So it is a question of what money will be available.  Money saved could be directed at public health but not if an economic downturn prevents availability of the same.   

What about those using the NHS and who works for it? 

Priti Patel, the Employment Minister, claimed:

It is becoming clear that our membership of the EU is putting the NHS under threat….What we get back from the EU is a city the size of Newcastle (population 288,000) of new immigrants to the UK every year. Current levels of migration are causing unsustainable pressures on our public services and we can see that the NHS is creaking under the strain.

However, the NHS and care sector employs 135,000 EU migrants, including 10,000 doctors and 20,000 nurses, some of whom might choose to leave the UK after Brexit.

There is a further balanced argument when considering the statistics on health tourism.  Some said the UK has paid £6.2bn since 2007-08 to other EU countries for giving health treatment to British citizens, but recouped only £405m from EU members for treating their citizens in the UK. But what levels are due to British tourists and the 190,000 UK pensioners living on the continent being big users of EU health services.

We have all heard the above statistics over the past 4 months and yet we are in no way certain as to whether a Brexit will be beneficial to our health service or not.  What we do know is that the requirements of a world leading health service remains the same, good funding, good staffing, and good treatment. 

We know that when the treatment falls down the effect on patients can be catastrophic.  I’m sure the NHS will aim to continue to deliver as much as possible for the budgets they have, and at time more so, bearing in mind many trust have deficit budgets aim to deliver more then they can pay for. 

Lets hope in the years ahead the NHS remains a priority as its still the envy of the developed world and something as brits we should remain proud of. 

Douglas Miller is a Partner and lawyer specialising in Clinical Negligence.