THE EFFECT OF BREXIT ON THE HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE SECTOR
March 19, 2019
I spoke in a debate today on the effect Brexit will have on the health and social care sector in the UK. This sector already facing extreme difficulties in terms of the recruitment and retention of staff, and the Royal College of Nursing has stated that Brexit will create new challenges, as well as exacerbate the existing challenges it faces. The health and social care sector relies heavily on EU workers, and the post-Brexit climate is making these workers feel unwelcome and unappreciated, making it less likely they will want to stay here when they can take their skills and professionalism anywhere in the EU.
With a growing elderly population we will see greater demand for health and social care services. 320,000 current staff in the sector are over-55 and will therefore be retiring soon, and it is important therefore that we are welcoming staff from the EU, who already make up over 104,000 staff in the workforce.
Brexit will also have a severe impact on the NHS services across the UK, affecting the number of nurses, doctors and GPs from the EU who already make such a vital contribution to them. There will be a significant impact on rural services, with one in five rural GPs in Scotland coming from the EU. EU nationals also work disproportionately in hard-to-fill specialisms and occupations, such as radiology.
It is disgraceful that the UK Government has been unable to guarantee the supply of medicines post-Brexit, particularly given that some medicines cannot be stockpiled, such as medical radio isotopes used for cancer treatment, due to their short half-lives. This is not scaremongering, the Royal College of Radiology are planning for disruption post-Brexit, and have planned a reduced workload in the week following Brexit. In addition the UK Government refuses to guarantee that it will protect our NHS from predatory procurement as a result of trade deals with the USA.
The effect Brexit will have on the health and social care sector could be profound and has been paid too little attention by the UK Government during the Brexit fiasco.