Staff crisis to push NHS to the brink in event of no-deal Brexit

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Mohammad Yasin MP
Mohammad Yasin MP Pic credit: Chris McAndrew

The Operation Yellowhammer documents the Government were forced to publish this month starkly reveal the risk posed to the NHS of a no-deal Brexit.

Leaving the EU without any arrangements in place risks intensifying the NHS staffing crisis; shortages and price rises for vital supplies; the need to care for returning emigrants would create huge funding shortfalls at a time when health and care need it most.

There are currently around 100,00 vacancies across the board including 40,000 vacancies in substantive nursing posts especially in mental health, learning disability, primary and community nursing.

Month after month standards of care deteriorate and waiting time targets are missed. Years of austerity, cuts, staffing shortages and ministerial mismanagement mean patients are being failed in record levels.

Britain now sits at the bottom of a major league table for cancer survival in high-income countries. According to NHS England, there could be as many as 4.5 million patients on the waiting list in England.

The crisis is already taking its toll on staff and patients. Macmillan Cancer Support said cancer patients are missing out on vital care as specialist nurses leave the profession and those remaining, struggle with huge workloads.

Set against this background, with no give whatsoever in the system, nurses and doctors have warned that abruptly ending freedom of movement in a no deal Brexit could lead to serious disruption and safety concerns for patients.

Since the Brexit vote, far fewer EU nurses and midwives are joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council register with less than a thousand joining last year — a 90 per cent fall in numbers since 2016.The Health Secretary has said that he wants to fill the staffing gaps with “a new Windrush Generation” of overseas nurses but a new immigration policy on this scale could take years to bed in.

EU nationals make a significant proportion of the social care workforce which has 110,000 vacancies. Even if even a small number of the EU nationals working in the sector leave, the stress on the NHS will go from critical to life support.

The Yellowhammer document confirmed the adult social care system is expected to be tipped over the edge by a no-deal exit, with providers starting to go bust as early as the new year.

Plans for some form of Brexit war chest to support social care providers and a cut in the salary threshold are the least the government be planning in preparation for what is going to be a catastrophic winter if the UK crashes out without a deal on 31 October.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin MP and published unedited.