Is the British health system in danger?

NHS ART enBrexit may have very negative consequences on the British National Health system. The effects would concern health staff, research efficiency, the financing of the health system and health standards.


Decrease in medical staff


Belonging to the European Union enables the National Health Service to employ 26% of foreign doctors and nurses, that is to say one quarter of its staff! What would happen if they leave? The NHS needs them!


Restriction on access to EU health system


Some Member States’ health systems are very developed and the British citizens can take benefit from it. This principle can be applied for British citizens living in France for example. If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, agreements will have to be renegotiated but there is no guarantee that British citizens would still be entitled to it in the same conditions.


Unity creates strength in the fight against diseases


The European Union provides the research community with infrastructure facilities and advanced technologies. With Brexit, the scientific community would not access or have lower access to those devices.


Let’s take the example of rare genetic diseases: there are so few cases in each country that it is not always relevant to create national infrastructure facilities. As a consequence, the European Union established a network of excellence in order to guarantee the best treatment for the individuals concerned.


That is why, as far as research and treatments are concerned, a community-level response is often more suited than a national action. It is the case for combating epidemics, for instance, because coordination is needed between the numerous Member States.


Moreover, the European Union puts in place research programs at a community level, which enables scientists to work on revolutionary treatments. Thanks to these programs, British researchers had a leading position and could exchange good practices with other renowned researchers as well as benefiting from the best conditions for their researches. As a result of Brexit, the United Kingdom could lose her leading position in the field of research.


A discounted health system


The greatest risk run by the National Health System is to have its budget crash down because of the Brexit for many reasons:


  • The research programs funded by the European Commission represent a substantial source of income which enables university to carry out their researches and to hire qualified staff
  • An isolated health system would be less attractive for investors
  • According to many surveys among which one from the CBI (Confederation of British Industries), Brexit would cause damages on the British economy and would have an impact on public expenses. The National Health Service would be directly threatened.
  • One would expect that when getting away from the European Union, the United Kingdom is losing her greatest market and would be under financial pressure

A step backward for the British health standards


When belonging to the EU, the United Kingdom had had to adopt a series of standards which represents progress in the field of public health. As an example, the European Directive 2014/40/UE on tobacco can avoid tens of thousands deaths (estimates) in the future. The European Union has also caused improvements in the children’s toys or vehicles safety. With Brexit, are these standards going to be put into question?

It remains to be seen if those elements will make a difference at the time of the referendum on June 23th.