According to one report, Brexit has increased drug prices in the UK and worsened staff shortages, adding to the impact of other serious problems facing the country’s healthcare system.
“Declining living standards in conjunction with rising inflation and falling pounds are also likely to affect health,” researchers at the Nuffield Trust.Health and Brexit: six years laterThe report released on Monday.
The nation’s public health system — the National Health Service wars — faces multiple challenges, including long waits for elective care, industrial action by nurses and ambulance workers, and intense pressure on emergency services, the research finds.
Understaffing in both health and social care are major factors in all of these issues – and one report says Brexit is getting worse.
One of the biggest problems facing the country after the referendum is the decline in the number of nurses, doctors, social workers and dentists coming to work in the UK, the researchers say.
The rapid hiring of doctors and nurses from other parts of the world is not sustainable, while increases in non-EU hiring do not offset the decline in EU dentists and social care workers, according to the report.
Hospitals in the UK have been running intense international recruitment campaigns over the past year to support their workforce. In many cases, providers recruited staff from so-called “red list” countries, which the World Health Organization says should not be targeted for international recruitment.
Some of the UK’s longstanding medical specialties have been particularly hard hit.
In a previous report, the think tank estimated that Brexit prevented thousands of EU-trained doctors from participating in the country’s public health service. Many of these potential soldiers should have received training in areas such as cardiothoracic surgery, pediatrics, anesthesia and psychiatry.
The researchers say training more staff in the UK and improving retention will help improve the loss of new EU staff.
However, the report was not entirely critical, stating that the government had successfully averted the sudden shortage of medicines soon after the country left the EU.
However, it found that the prices of some drugs have risen sharply due to possible factors such as trade barriers and the depreciation of the pound. Some drugs are also approved differently in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, creating a smaller, separate drug market.
Mark Dayan, Head of the Nuffield Trust Brexit Programme, said it was “undeniable” that the country’s health care has been through “the hardest three years in its history”.
But he added: “The effects of Brexit seem to add to the serious challenges and problems the NHS is currently facing.
“The economic blow…combined with the worst cost of living crisis in a generation lowers living standards and creates additional need for health and care.”
The pound’s decline in value, coupled with rising trade barriers, are “probably the main factors in our unusually consistent and longstanding problems sourcing vital products,” he said.
Professor Tamara Hervey, co-author of the report, who is the Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law at the City University of London, called for “an honest national conversation about drugs, equipment and device procurement and the post-Brexit context for NHS staff”.
The health sector in general seeks a closer relationship with EU standards. A looser relationship with the EU has potential benefits, but taking advantage of them will require bold political decisions. Instead, we have drifts and fantasies.
“The situation in Northern Ireland, where political gaming takes precedence over public health, is particularly worrying.”