Smart Brexit Newswire

Health isn't valued until sickness comes

Last month when the Prime Minister delivered her Brexit speech she had leave and remain voters cheerleading her vision of post-Brexit Britain. One group of the population who probably didn't welcome the speech, or the hastily drafted Brexit White Paper, are those who work in the health and social care sectors. Neither were mentioned as part of the Government's grand Brexit plan which is odd, given that it is currently the most politically explosive issue and both are directly affected by our leaving the European Union.

This is brought to the fore by the Guardian today as their leading online story cites a British Medical Association study which shows around 12,000 NHS workers born in the EU are considering leaving the UK because of Brexit. Given that there are, for example, around 20,000 nursing vacancies nationwide a mass exodus of European staff would be a difficult shock to absorb for the NHS.

A shortage of staff post-Brexit is the key problem facing the NHS and social care sector post-Brexit assuming that immigration controls will tighten and the number of people coming here from the EU will decline. The social care sector in particular relies on low-paid, unskilled workers to look after our pensioners and chronically sick. You only have to look at the state social care is in at the moment and the knock-on pressures it is causing in our hospitals to get seriously nervous about what would happen if it started to lose its labour force.

That being said, it's not the only problem facing the NHS. After trawling through the websites and policy papers of organisations and charities you find that there is a relatively short, but extremely tricky list of uncertainties that need to be resolved as part of the UK's new deal with the EU.

In no particular order: there is what is termed "cross-border harmonisation" of pharmaceutical standards which means all EU countries have the same standards for producing medicines - this lets us have groundbreaking new medicines on our pharmacy shelves quicker than we would otherwise. What happens if the UK's and EU's standards start to move away from each other?

There is also uncertainty around access to EU health research funding which helps fund research into rare diseases.

Employment law that comes from the EU will also be up for repeal or change in the near future and the health and social care sector are concerned about the relaxation of, for example, the EU Working Time Directive that gives people a legal entitlement to proper breaks and rests during and in between shifts as well as a minimum number of holiday days per year. 

Similarly, a great deal of equality law comes from the European Union and charities who work with mental health patients or those with learning disabilities are concerned that a weakening of the UK's equality law could have serious impacts on the people who benefit from them.

Most importantly, though, is the reciprocal healthcare arrangements we currently have with the EU. As a Brit you can go on holiday, break your arm and go into a Spanish hospital and get it treated at no personal cost. That could disappear with the result of people having to pay whopping great hospital bills whilst on holiday after an innocent accident.

All are going to be on the negotiating table at some point over the next two years but at the moment they're not being discussed as people focus on the Article 50 bill going through Parliament or the £50 billion the EU are asking the UK to cough up as part of divorce proceedings.

It will come to the fore soon though because as Theresa May is quickly learning, the NHS and social care are not going away any time soon.

The Guardian: Thousands of doctors trained in Europe 'may quit UK after Brexit'


What's Happening Today?

There are two by-elections to elect new Members of Parliament for Copeland up in the Lake District and Stoke Central. Both were held by Labour until the two MPs, Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt, resigned to take up new jobs. Both seats are completely up in the air which is remarkable as usually the main opposition party waltzes home in by-elections like these. This, though, is no ordinary time for the Labour party.

Why? Brexit, to put it simply.

These two seats were heavy leave voting areas and therefore present a problem for a party that voted to remain and are desperately trying to hold on to voters at odds with the party over the biggest issue facing the country.

We'll know by tomorrow whether Labour hang on or the referendum hangover continues for Jeremy Corbyn and his beleaguered party.


Today's Front Pages




Today's News

Jobs and Livelihoods

The Independent: Theresa May's Brexit plan for access to single market for specific UK sectors 'not on offer' Sir Ivan Rogers tells MPs

Forbes: Brexit without a conclusive trade deal would be insane

Daily Mirror: Former EU ambassador says Theresa May's Brexit Plan B is "insane" - but might happen anyway

The Guardian: Trading off costs and benefits of Brexit and the EU

The Independent: Third of manufacturing firms want to move some operations of the UK

The Independent: Paris announces seven new skyscrapers as it steps up bid to lure London jobs

The Sun: Boris Johnson slams doom-mongers as Britain sees better than expected economic growth in number Brexit boost

Daily Mail: Britain's growth in the final three months of 2016 is upgraded to 0.7% as the economy defied gloomy pre-Brexit predictions



Financial Times: Brexit vote prompts huge rise in EU residence applications

The Guardian: Record number of EU migrants to UK expected in latest ONS data



The Sun: Only a total rethink can save the NHS from collapse


And the rest...

Daily Express: Panic across Europe as 'out of pocket' EU nations rush to plug Brexit funding gap

The Guardian: Brexit talks could get 'gory, bitter and twisted' says former ambassador

Telegraph: Britain faces 'legal void' if it fails to strike EU trade deal, warns ex-ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers

The Sun: Secret talks underway to give Parliament a veto on any Brexit deal the PM brings back in bid to fend off court fight