Anyone who voted Brexit for a much-needed massive cash injection for the NHS may well see exactly the opposite, a senior NHS consultant from Devon has warned.
Writing in the Plymouth Herald, Dr John Dean, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, says all the talk now is of further cuts in public spending.
“I doubt that many voted to leave the EU because they really believed that this would result in a massive cash boost for the NHS, but this is precisely what was promised,” he writes. “Up to £350 million per week extra was promised at one stage of the campaign. This was downgraded to £100 million per week later on when the Leave campaigners realised the sums did not add up.
“Now that the vote to leave has been won and our new prime minister clearly intends to follow Brexit through, no one in power is talking about extra investment in the NHS.”
He cites an analysis by the independent think-tank the Health Foundation which found that any potential savings the UK might make in payments to the EU “would be more than cancelled out” by the economic consequences of leaving. The Foundation said that even if the UK remained in the European Economic Area (EEA) after leaving the EU, the NHS could have a funding shortfall of at least £365 million a week. But if the UK does not remain part of the EEA, this could be as high as £540 million a week.
Dr Dean also notes that the same think-tank says the NHS is short of 28,000 nurses, 2,300 consultants and 2,500 junior doctors.
In his own hospital, he says, 20 percent of the registered nurses are from overseas – the majority from the EU – and many of these people are now worried about their future in the UK.
‘If you voted to leave the EU to reduce immigration, how did you think gaps in hospital staff would be filled?’ – Dr John Dean
“There is understandable concern among the EU workforce already working for the NHS as to what will happen after Article 50 is triggered. People are planning their futures and thinking about where they want to be in two to three years’ time and I doubt they will wait to find out.”
If the existing employment shortage is not to be made much worse, he says, we need to move on from simply reassuring our EU workforce that they are valued, to giving them some security and certainty should they choose to remain in this country.
“If we don’t we could see a lot of people who are already here leaving. And it seems certain that many EU nationals who were considering a future working in the NHS will think again.”
He says Prime Minister Theresa May is unlikely to encourage overseas recruitment given the tone of some of her past speeches. But he notes that filling the vacancies with British-born personnel would be a logistical impossibility.
“If you voted to leave the EU to reduce immigration, how did you think gaps in hospital staff would be filled? We certainly cannot do it from our local population. Even if we massively expanded medical school places in the UK today, we would not see any expansion in home-grown hospital consultants or general practitioners until 2033 at the earliest.”