Brexit and the NHS

In this week’s Whitehaven News Roger Putum responds to a letter concerning the NHS and Brexit.

Roger Putnam

To the Editor
Whitehaven News

Letter for Whitehaven News March 19th 2018.

BREXIT and the NHS.

Mr Fisher (Letters March 8th) suggests there is no link between the future of the NHS and the BREXIT decision. Here are three reasons why he is wrong.

Firstly, the NHS and all other public services already face a worsening financial crisis. The ‘leaked’ government figures, produced in January (‘EU Exit Analysis – Cross-Whitehall briefing’), predict a further substantial fall in UK economic performance following BREXIT, with an inevitable knock-on effect on funding for the NHS. The “no deal” BREXIT scenario, under which the UK reverts to World Trade Organization rules, would reduce UK growth by 8%. Indeed, the North-West is predicted to be 12% worse off, the third worst region in the UK. These calculations do not take into account other hits to the economy from BREXIT, such as the cost of adjusting to new customs arrangements.

There is no prospect of Boris Johnson’s predicted £350 million a week BREXIT saving reaching the NHS, as he now admits. Instead, on top of the further funding cuts being imposed on all local authorities responsible for care services (including Cumbria County Council) we are certain to see reductions in central NHS funding as economic performance suffers and the tax take falls.

Second, we note that it is proposed to remove the UK from the current Euratom arrangements. The Euratom treaty allows for closer EU scientific and medical co-operation and the rapid transfer between EU members of vital medical radio-isotopes used in NHS cancer treatments. Why spend years negotiating a less beneficial replacement treaty when we already have an effective system in place?

Third, consider the implications for NHS staffing. Around 10,000 EU nationals have quit the NHS and social care services since the EU referendum, including almost 4,000 nurses and 1,800 doctors. Many more are planning to leave. We can recognise the effects already; simply listen to the views of the professional organisations involved. One dire effect of these staffing shortages will be to make the future of our West Cumberland Hospital even more uncertain.

Lib Dems are now committed to providing the full £4 billion the NHS needs for 2018/2019, funded by a suitable increase in Income Tax, with an ‘NHS Passport’ to guarantee the rights of the other 50,000 EU health and care workers in the UK.

Mr Fisher asks for our Plan B. In fact the country faces a simple decision; Remain in the EU; or Leave. That is still the fundamental choice ahead, as most now recognise. As the damaging implications of Leave become ever more obvious, it would be prudent to re-examine the 2016 BREXIT decision, both at public and at parliamentary level. The patriotic choice is to remain and to play our full part in the European project, instead of staying on the sidelines with minimum influence. Future generations will not thank us if we get this wrong.

Roger Putnam
Secretary, West Cumbria Liberal Democrats
‘Bower Bank’ Irton
Cumbria, CA19 1 TD

Tel. 019467 23361