Letter: Brexit will lead to major problems in health service

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A Northamptonshire GP writes to tell us about his fears the impact of Brexit will have on the NHS.

As a Northamptonshire GP I feel compelled to speak out about the dire impact of the proposed EU withdrawal bill, and of Brexit in general, on our NHS.

There is no doubt that leaving the European Union would result in major problems for the provision of satisfactory health services in our region and in the country generally.

There is no doubt that the funding of the NHS would be reduced; it is widely acknowledged that Brexit will reduce the size of our economy and it is clear that this will in turn reduce tax receipts and thus the funding available for health.

By making trade less seamless, and introducing the possibility of tariffs on the movement of goods much of what the NHS pays for will become more expensive.

Annual inflation in the NHS is much higher than general inflation already and this will certainly exacerbate this problem.

To be clear – I am talking about a negotiated Brexit – should we be left with a “No Deal” Brexit the situation would be far worse and cause even more suffering for our patients.

Yes, we would not pay the same amount of money annually to be part of the EU but it is clear this money is overshadowed by reduced income and increased costs for the reasons I have mentioned; the “£350 million per week for the NHS” was a fantasy and a fabrication.

The financial losses are only one part of this frightening situation however.

As a result of Brexit we would be reducing access to skilled nurses, doctors, care home workers and a huge number of other talented and caring workers.

I work with and alongside these people every day and it is heartbreaking to think that we would be denied their skills in future.

Unemployment is at a low level and it is unrealistic to think we have the untapped talent to fill these posts or the time to train people up in anywhere near adequate time or adequate numbers.

Worse than this, Theresa May has now started a campaign of demonising EU nationals who work here and contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of this country.

By accusing them of “jumping the queue” she falsely gives the impression that they have not worked hard and have somehow benefitted from things they are not entitled to.

This simply plays into the hands of xenophobes; creating a more divided country and an atmosphere of fear and hatred in society.

It has become clear that the descriptions of Brexit
we were given when the referendum was held were a series of half-truths, illusions and exaggerations.

As the awful truth of what will happen if we leave the EU has become apparent it reinforces my belief that what we have now, with membership of a huge free-trade area to keep down costs and supply scarce workers, is the best deal we can have with Europe.

As a doctor I am obliged to make sure patients make decisions based on “Informed Consent” where they are aware of the benefits and risks of their actions.

This same principle must be applied to Brexit – now that we know the benefits would be minimal and the costs severe people who voted to leave the EU must be allowed the opportunity to change their minds – surely the core of democracy.

We must be allowed a “People’s vote” on whether to remain in the EU or to leave on Mrs May’s terms.

For the sake of our NHS, and our country as a whole, I sincerely hope we choose to stay.

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