Article by: Anonymous
Is the much-heralded health care system in the UK, the National Health Service (NHS), on the brink of a crisis? It appears so, especially in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and the invocation of Article 50 of the European Constitution.
That the NHS has a shortage of funding has been known to one and all. In fact, one of the promises made by UKIP, the political party that was at the forefront of the fight for Brexit was that the funds that were sent to the EU by the British government would be used to shore up the NHS post-Brexit. They said that this would improve the quality of the healthcare in the UK significantly.
However, in reality, that does not seem to be the case. The NHS has a severe shortage of staff – doctors and nurses. A lack of 16,000 general physicians is expected by 2020. The nursing shortages are projected to be even worse, at 100,000 or more.
Since the 1990s, the UK has been filling up the shortage of doctors and nurses by recruiting them from EU countries. Many qualified doctors and nurses in EU countries such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary, to name just a few, are attracted by the prospect of the stable, long-term contracts provided by the NHS.
Nonetheless, with the UK deciding to leave the EU, and more importantly, because of the outcry against immigration in the UK, one expects the NHS to find it much more difficult to recruit medical professionals from these countries.
Brexit comes at a time when there is a severe nursing shortage in the NHS. There are many reasons for this – there is a significant aging population in the UK, which has created a demand for more nurses. The nursing workforce has aged considerably over the last decade, and a half and 33% of the nurses are in their 50s and are expected to retire over the next ten years.
The number of nursing specialists should go down by 10% over the next five years at this rate. This shortfall was expected to be filled up by nursing specialists from the EU, but Brexit has now put a question mark on that.
How vital are nursing specialists from the EU to the NHS? According to the July 2016 Institute for Employment Studies (IES) report, close to 5% of the nurses in the NHS in 2015 were from EU countries other than Ireland. That is up from 1% in 2009. In fact, in London, 20% of the nurses are from the EU.
Brexit will prove to be a stumbling block to the NHS’ goal of recruiting 100,000 social care workers to manage elderly patients and those who are chronically ill outside the hospital setting. This was meant to be a significant health care reform introduced a few years ago by the UK government, but now there are serious doubts regarding its feasibility.
Secondary care accounts for 78% of the healthcare budget allocated to the NHS. The government now wants to cut this down and focus more on primary and long-term care instead.
Usually, the vacancies for the social care jobs are filled up by social workers from the EU; but now, in the post-Brexit scenario, one expects an exodus of social care workers back to their home countries. This exodus should add further pressure on the NHS, which has been genuinely struggling to stay afloat at this point.