Brexit, Boris Johnson and the NHS

In an attempt to maintain public trust in the sustainability of the NHS, Boris Johnson has promised to invest £1.8 billion more into our health services. This money is set to upgrade twenty NHS hospitals, result in shorter waits to see a GP and end the crisis in doctors’ pensions. 

In a speech delivered earlier this Summer, Johnson reiterates our NHS as being ‘one of the crowning glories of this country’ and that he himself will ensure the money invested is actually directed to where it needs to be for sufficient action to be made. 

Of course, this topic is controversial; one of Johnson’s health advisors – William Warr, states that more money is not the answer (rather, parliament should focus on provision of resources, reducing wastage and increasing the focus on prevention over cure). 

The important concepts for your interview are to know the principles of the Prime Minister’s plans for the NHS along with the impact Brexit could have on them. 

Three Important Impacts of Brexit on the NHS

In an interview of usually 10-15 minutes (perhaps even five if at a multi-station set up), you should aim to have one or two key points in your mind about any ethical or political situation currently influencing the NHS. 

Here are three to keep in mind over the current Brexit climate:

1. Staffing

Currently, the NHS is understaffed by more than 100,000 positions. This figure reflects posts from across the multidisciplinary team – nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, technicians, administrative staff, managers and carers – to name but a few. With vacancies available for these positions, international recruitment is key and changes in immigration policies following Brexit may mean these positions remain unfilled. 

Not only does this take opportunities away from aspiring professionals, but those who remain must manage the burden of a second or even third role. Burnout will be on the rise and in an already time-constrained environment, so will human error. This poses a massive risk to the patient’s quality of care and therefore additionally, their safety.

Did you know that 62,000 of England’s NHS workforce are EU nationals?

2. Accessing Treatment Internationally

Currently UK citizens have access to treatment within the EU and vice versa for EU citizens. European Health Insurance cards (EHIC) allow for this with over 27 million currently in possession of a card. 

Without this insurance, the cost would fall down to the individual and the need for private insurance could be mandatory. As with many other concepts of Brexit, it remains uncertain as to whether current UK/EU citizens would be charged for services.

3. Funding 

Given the Prime Minister’s proposition to contribute over £1 billion to the NHS and the requirement for GP rationing of specialist referrals, it comes as no surprise that the NHS is already under great financial burden. The UK’s future trading relationships are unclear and ultimately contribute to the UK’s economic status. 

In line with this logic, it is uncertain as to how leaving the European Union will affect the NHS. If our economy takes a hit, the government may be forced to cut public service spending meaning more hospital specialities closing and removing out of hours services. 

Secondary effects are huge; waiting times are increasing due to shortage of staff and the quality of personalised care may be impacted in an attempt to maintain what remains of a squeezed and highly pressured health system.

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