At the most recent National Cancer Research Institute Conference, Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon, the fifth and current First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, stated that the chances of Brexit having harmful impacts on healthcare services of the UK are very high. Mrs Sturgeon urges the government to “come clean” regarding the scale of the costs that Brexit will bring to the NHS, claiming that millions of pounds will be lost in terms of funding for research trials. Furthermore, side effects would include large pharmaceutical corporations being directed to “stockpile medicine” in order to prepare for a “no-deal” scenario.
The weekly fee that the UK will no longer have to pay to the European Union was promised to be given to the NHS, however, it is not clear if the promise will be kept. Chief Executive of NHS England Simon Stevens, who opposes brexit, supported the idea of giving an extra £350 million a week to the National Health Service. Conservatives not keeping their NHS promise would weaken the “democratic politics”, because “You voted Brexit, partly for a better funded health service. But precisely because of Brexit, you now can’t have one.” With demand on the NHS increasing year on year, and no clear source of extra funding, its future looks uncertain.
Mrs Sturgeon claims that the Prime Minister cannot guarantee uninterrupted medical supplies after Brexit and that the best strategy to avoid the detrimental consequences to the National Health Service is to remain in the EU. Mr Stevens gave a speech demanding the money promised, coming after leading health think-tanks warned that the NHS funding will this year be at one of the lowest rates in its history. The Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust have all estimated that the National Health Service needs £4bn more this year to “prevent patient care from deteriorating”.
Leading think-tanks concluded that the United Kingdom must remain in the customs union and single market – which is nearly 8 times the size of the UK market – in order to minimise the harmful impact of Brexit and ensure that the population will continue to have access to the “high quality frontline and research staff we need.”
The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, with the two sides currently negotiating the terms their future relations.