With one in ten NHS professionals being an EU citizen, concerns have arisen as to whether Brexit could adversely affect the NHS and cause major staffing complications. There is plenty of post-Brexit anxiety sweeping Britain at present, with no one quite sure what the outcome of the referendum means and the future of the seven-day week for the NHS looking decidedly shaky.
With such a large contingent of NHS professionals coming from EU countries, the Department of Health is concerned that the referendum results will affect future staffing levels and service delivery.
Service delivery affected
The NHS has approximately 55,000 staff members who are citizens of EU countries and drastic measures have already been taken to retain them should Britain pull out of the EU.
Whether freedom of movement and employment rights would undergo any changes remains to be seen, but already Brexit is causing an issue with the delivery of the Seven Day Services Improvement Programme. There is a drive to recruit new staff to join the NHS, with companies such as http://www.gandlscientific.com/clinical-project-management/ that offer scientific staffing solutions well equipped to assist; however, whether they can supply the number of staff required to counteract a potential shortfall is debatable.
A public health emergency
The Institute for Public Policy Research has warned that the UK could easily face a public health emergency and that the NHS could collapse if EU staff had to leave. The seven-day service is already under strain and resources would be spread even thinner and it would be impossible to deliver a full service if the workforce is reduced.
The plan to provide a seven-day service has always been met with bitter divisions amongst doctors and healthcare professionals, with many saying it is simply not a feasible long-term option and that figures supplied by the health secretary that pointed to more people dying during weekends when medical care was unavailable to them were strongly disputed.
Without a full NHS workforce, even delivering a five-day service would be a stretch and delivering quality care would be almost impossible. The reliance of the system on having its full staff contingent is evident and it is safe to say that it could have a dire effect on the NHS if Britain were to leave the EU.