Via PLOS Blogs Network, a June 26 post: Brexit: what might it mean for global health? Excerpt:
UK health system financing is provided through central taxation to the National Health Service (NHS). Increasingly, many are finding that the NHS is struggling to cope with the demands of the UK population, and questions arise regarding the source of this strain. A key pro-Leave argument has attributed this to the rise in levels of migration to the UK and their increased use of public service goods including healthcare.
However, research by University College London has shown that most recent migration (2001-2011) actually has had a positive effect on the economy. “EEA immigrants contributed to the fiscal system 34% more than they took out, with a net fiscal contribution of about 22.1 billion GBP. In contrast, over the same period, natives’ fiscal payments amounted to 89% of the amount of transfers they received, or an overall negative fiscal contribution of 624.1 billion GBP”.
Furthermore, the Office of Budget Responsibility forecasted economic growth in the UK as dependent on higher rates of inward migration. This suggests that migrants are net contributors to UK economy rather than draining it. And while contributing to the economy, migrants are also likely to be contributing to the NHS, as nearly 15% of clinical staff, including 30% of doctors, are foreign nationals. As Dr. Sarah Wollaston MP explains “if you meet a migrant in the NHS, they are more likely to be treating you than ahead of you in the queue”.
Another more obvious issue regarding sources of strain on the NHS can be found closer to home. According to The King’s Fund, the NHS budget has been effectively frozen for the last 6 years, with health spending as a proportion of GDP decreasing year on year, and a struggle to match the rate of inflation.
Increasing privatisation of key public services and a demoralised health workforce, as well as a systematic underfunding of the NHS – all policies implemented by the current government – perhaps show a clearer link to the current issues seen in service delivery, a link that is conveniently overlooked by many who continue to blame this to increasing levels of migration.
Furthermore, during campaigning, the Leave group argued that stopping the contributions that the UK made as part of the EU would lead to £350 million pound saving which would increase NHS funding, even emblazoning this pledge on the side of “Vote Leave” tour bus. However, after the results of the referendum were announced it was publicly announced that this was no longer a given.
In fact, it is suggested that the Brexit result will reduce funding to the NHS even further, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggesting there will be a £36 billion net loss due to lower rates of economic growth prompted through the economic instability the decision will bring4. As Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS describes “when the economy sneezes, the NHS catches a cold.”
The effects of this can already be seen: since announcing the results of the referendum, the value of the Great British Pound (GBP) has plummeted to its lowest in the last 31 years, with many predicting an impeding economic recession for the UK. As well as reducing funding to health services, a rise in inflation is likely to increase living costs disproportionately for the poorest households, increasing the rates of poverty-related illness further in the most vulnerable groups.
As I post this, the pound has fallen still further, to US$1.31. Just before the referendum, it was at US$1.50.