Unite: Govt must change Brexit tack to avoid worsening NHS crisis

A Tory Brexit will hurt NHS funding, increase waiting times and make staff shortages worse, a new report has warned.

Instead of the extra £350m a week Conservative leave campaigners promised the health service, leaving the EU will result in shrinking NHS budgets because of slower economic growth, the report by The UK in a Changing Europe think-tank found.

The report states that government plans to sever connections with the single market and customs union will hit health service waiting times, the quality of patient care and recovery rates.

It also rubbished claims by leave campaigners such as Boris Johnson that leaving the EU would free up an additional £350m a week for the NHS, saying it “does not foresee any dividend for the NHS leaving the EU”.

The report said: “Brexit is forecast to mean less money for public services generally, including the NHS, due to lower economic growth and productivity. This of course comes on top of existing funding pressures.

“Should these pressures become more acute after Brexit, there will be a direct knock-on effect on waiting times, and thus recovery rates, as well as the quality of care that can be delivered.”

The report said the health and social care is reliant on immigrants, with more than 200,000 EU nationals working in the health and social care sector, and that Brexit could make NHS staff shortages worse if Tory plans to radically reduce immigration go ahead.

It said: “The NHS and social care sector are dependent on immigration policy for fulfilling staffing needs, and it is as yet unclear what this policy will be. The risks, however, are evident.”

Unite national officer for health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said that after years of being run into the ground by the Tories “the NHS cannot afford to take another serious hit because of the government’s mismanagement of Brexit”.

“We know that EU health workers, who make a massive contribution to the NHS and are sick of being used as human bargaining chips, are leaving and that recruitment from the continent is drying up – factors exacerbating already severe NHS staff shortages,” Jarrett-Thorpe said.

“At the very least the government must inject the funds needed to get the NHS back on its feet and able to weather another crisis. Unfortunately the government’s shambolic handling of the EU negotiations means the likelihood of a economically devastating hard Brexit, and all the consequences that will bring to public services, is inching ever closer.”

He added: “Theresa May must drop her redlines and negotiate an exit that protects the economy and the NHS. If the Prime Minister isn’t able to do this she must step aside, because there is a Labour government in-waiting who will.”