FORMER Prime Minister John Major this week hit out with his view that a hard Brexit would bring a low wage economy for Britain, which would adversely affect tax income for the Treasury and worsen austerity.
He said: “It has worrying implications for public services such as the NHS.”
It has worrying implications, too, for Scotland. Given that funding for the Scottish Government relies on the Barnett formula, any Brexit-inspired cuts to the NHS in England and Wales could have severe consequences for the budgets of the Scottish public services such as the NHS.
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Further disastrous consequences of a hard Brexit could see the forced repatriation of EU nationals living here and an inability of the NHS in Scotland to import qualified doctors, nurses and other staff from EU countries.
The British Medical Association is an avowedly politically neutral trade union and professional association representing doctors from all branches of medicine. The BMA has a total membership of over 168,000 and in Scotland, the BMA represents more than 16,000 members.
Late last year they told a Scottish Parliament committee about the effects of Brexit on the NHS.
The BMA said at the time: “The outcome of the referendum has created great uncertainty for EU nationals currently living and working in the UK regarding their future status.
“It is vital that both the UK and Scottish Government offer these individuals the clarity and reassurance they deserve regarding their future status in the UK.
“This is crucial, particularly in key public services such as the NHS, to aid workforce planning and to ensure safe staffing levels are maintained.”
The best estimate is that around 1,400 doctors in the Scottish NHS originate from other EU countries.
The BMA warned: “There are significant problems with recruitment and retention of all grades of doctor across Scotland and the UK. The EU’s policy of freedom of movement and mutual recognition of professional qualifications is critical.
“If it, or something similar, is not retained after Brexit, the gaps in the medical workforce may expand further, with serious consequences for healthcare in Scotland and the wider UK.”
Within the last few days, the BMA has released shocking statistics which, funnily enough, you won’t find too prominent in the pro-Brexit English media.
The BMA’s survey of 1,193 doctors from the European Economic Area found that: • More than four out of ten (42 per cent) are considering leaving the UK following the referendum vote, with a further quarter (23 per cent) unsure.
• On a scale of one to ten, European doctors stated they feel substantially less appreciated by the UK Government. The average rating dropped from seven out of ten before the referendum, to less than four after the referendum.
• On a scale of one to ten, European doctors stated they feel significantly less committed to working in the UK in light of the EU referendum result. From an average rating of nine out of ten before the referendum, commitment dropped to an average of six out of ten after the result.
• European doctors felt highly appreciated by patients before the EU referendum result, and this continues to be the case.
Chair of BMA Scotland, Dr Peter Bennie said: “This survey should set alarm bells ringing in Government. It shows just how much damage is being done by the needless and continuing uncertainty over the future status of European doctors who already work in our NHS.
“These are our colleagues and our friends and the ongoing uncertainty they face is deeply damaging. Together, we staff Scotland’s hospitals and GP surgeries, look after vulnerable patients in the community, and conduct vital medical research to help save lives. Many European doctors have dedicated years of service to healthcare in the UK, so it’s extremely concerning that so many are considering leaving.
“The refusal of the Westminster Government to guarantee their right to continue contributing to our health service is understandably causing a significant number of European doctors to consider leaving the UK, regardless of what future agreement is reached.
“We should be in no doubt that the scale of the recruitment and retention difficulties that Scotland’s NHS is facing would be made exponentially worse without the contribution of European doctors.
“While the Scottish Government’s position of wanting to protect the future right of European NHS staff is welcome and was acknowledged by a number of this survey’s respondents, it is the Westminster Government that must act, and act quickly, to ensure long-term stability for the NHS by providing certainty about their future in the UK.
“It must also ensure that a future immigration system allows the NHS to continue employing European and overseas doctors to fill staff shortages in the health service.”