There is much concern around the impact Brexit will have on the public healthcare industry. The robustness of the NHS workforce and the funding available to the public sector are two of the most frequently highlighted topics.
One of the main concerns regarding Brexit and public healthcare is the recruitment and retention of NHS professionals, including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. Of people working in health and social care professions, nearly 62,000 (5.2%) of the English NHS’s workforce and approximately 104,000 (8%) of England’s adult social care sector have come to the UK from another EU country. This calls for the UK’s Brexit and immigration policy to be well thought through to ensure the UK has the right skills to support healthcare requirements, both immediately and in the future.
In December 2018, the government published an immigration white paper, which set out plans for a new skills-based immigration system in 2021. It will see European Economic Area (EEA) migrants treated in the same way as non-EEA migrants, as well as the removal of the skilled workers limit. However, it does propose an earnings threshold of a minimum of £30,000, which will impact the availability of lower level staff.
Public healthcare funding will depend on the performance of the wider UK economy, which will remain uncertain until the finalisation of the UK’s Brexit deal. Last year the Prime Minister set out a 5-year NHS funding plan, which stated that the NHS will receive an average increase of 3.4% per year over the next 5 years. This funding will support the NHS’s new 10-year plan, which is designed to improve patient care and health outcomes. However, the funding doesn’t provide any support or certainty to other parts of the healthcare industry.
Currently, there is a lot of uncertainty around Brexit, which is having a knock-on effect on people’s confidence, especially in regard to the future of the UK’s economy. But until a deal has been agreed or a decision for a no-deal Brexit has been made, can anyone really predict what the extent of the effects will be?