Beyond Brexit: The multiple challenges facing the NHS
Brexit, like everything else will of course affect health and social care in the UK but will we notice any immediate difference on February 1? No.
The all-important transitional period means that everything will pretty much stay the same until our trade and future relationship is agreed with the EU at the end of December 2020.
There are a number of issues that Brexit will through up, number one is staffing.
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Currently 5.5% of the 1.2 million workforce of the NHS in England come from the EU and a massive 9% of the 1.3 workers in social care.
With more than 100,000 vacancies already in the NHS, the impact on the service’s ability to fill those posts will be huge, especially since it’s estimated an extra 5,000 internationally-recruited nurses will be needed each year to plug shortages.
Any real impact will depend on the migration policy and the potential barriers put in place.
Health care here and abroad
There will also be a question mark over reciprocal care members of the EU get here and Britons receive on the continent.
We can all get free care in EU counties, if we hold an European Health Insurance Card. What will happen, though, after the transition period?
Will British people living abroad have to pay for care? And will those travelling to different countries have to adhere to different rules, or take out private insurance to ensure we are covered for treatment?
All this needs to be dealt with and agreed.
Access to medicine
Access to medicine, as well as its regulation is another concern.
The UK is part of the European Medicines Agency, which is responsible for scientific evaluation of medicines made by pharmaceuticals for the EU.
Being part of it means the UK has ‘tier 1’ status, so companies launch their products first here.
If we operate outside of it, and that is possible, we might lose out tier 1 status and have to wait six months longer for medicines to come to the UK.
Extra regulatory burdens and bureaucracy on pharmaceutical companies may also drive up prices of imported medicines.
Another fear is the impact Brexit will have on scientific research in this country.
The free movement of researchers across Europe and the ability to attract funding for research is crucial.
Recruiting academics is already proving difficult. The EU has funded a great deal of research, €8.8 billion-worth between 2007 - 2013, so any loss of that would have a massive impact.
It means the UK would have a limited influence over scientific programmes, effecting our standard across the world.
There are, of course, other impacts, including to social care, clinical trials, funding, the list goes on.
We won’t know precisely how any of Brexit will really effect health in this country until the deal is done at the end of the year.
All we can do is speculate and watch, and wait and see.