E is for Emergency

Every year, billions of pounds is spent in the NHS. According to the NHS Confederation, planned expenditure for 2017/18 is £123.8bn. The NHS was launched in 1948 with the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all.

However, with Britain set to leave the European Union in 2019, how will our emergency services, and healthcare overall, be affected?

Many economists have predicted that Brexit will be a shock to economic growth, with potential to affect spending on the NHS. According to TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady: “Based on IFS analysis, if we leave the EU, the public purse is likely to lose enough money each year to fund the whole of NHS England for 3 months… it could still be as much as £10 billion a year by the end of the decade.”

The other concerning outcome of Brexit on NHS is staffing levels. The Independent reported that there are 130,000 non-British EU citizens who work within health and social care in Britain. If the UK leaves the EU, their visa status would be uncertain.

Currently, 5% of NHS staff come from the European Economic Area (EEA). However, areas close to Essex including London, Thames Valley and East of England are especially reliant on European staff.

However, as the BBC reports, there have already been notable changes to staffing levels since the vote took place. The proportion of staff from the EU joining has decreased, while numbers of those leaving are rising. In any case, England does not have enough trained “home grown” staff to meet NHS staffing requirements, meaning these levels of joiners and leavers from the EU is worrying for our healthcare system.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “A nurse who trained in Lyon or Lisbon is as much a part of the NHS family as one trained in London. But sadly, it is no surprise that so many are leaving – few can live with the uncertainty.

Once we leave the EU, just what will happen to the NHS? With funding and staffing after Brexit take place not confirmed, the future of our healthcare system is worryingly unclear.

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