Brexit and NHS Scotland

Presentation by Philippa Whitford MP (Livestream).

Scotland has had 2 recent referendums – we were told to vote No to stay in the EU and keep the NHS in 2014, and we voted to Remain in the EU in 2016. Circumstances have now changed dramatically – we are heading out of the EU against our will, and the Tories are pressing ahead with their privatisation of NHS England. People are bored with talking about Brexit, and hope it won’t apply to them – but it will. The media talk as though Brexit is only about trade, but it’s about a whole lot more:

  • Budget – Brexit promised £350 million a week for the NHS – actually, it’s costing £500 million and rising. No-deal Brexit could lead to a financial crash as bad as 2008 – causing severe cuts to the NHS.
  • Workforce In 2014, staff from overseas accounted for 35% (14,600) of hospital consultants, 22% (8,000) of GPs and 14% (47,000) of nurses. There are 40,000 nurse vacancies in England. There is a 90% drop in EU nurse applications. Scotland is already losing 14% of its EU doctors. The situation in social care is even more dramatic. The NHS runs on people.
  • Reciprocal healthcare – what you get with your EHIC card, will be lost. Retired in Europe, without ever having paid taxes in that country, yet you expect virtually free healthcare after Brexit?
  • European Medicines Agency – at the moment, we get US drugs released in Europe almost as quickly as in the USA – there will now be delays before we get them. Pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and the NHS are expected to stockpile drugs – at no cost to the consumer? Quality control of drugs must be carried out in Europe, so jobs and investment will be lost. Quitting Euratom may lose us access to radioactive isotopes used in cancer scans and treatments.
  • Research – the EU is the biggest research unit in the world, and depends on EU funding, collaboration and freedom of movement. The EU has made more progress in child-related research than any other union – with a 500 million population base, you get better research results.
  • Public Health – the EEA has been a driver in improving water quality, air pollution, beaches, acid rain
  • Erasmus – students will no longer be able to study easily in Europe
  • Travel – will be more difficult, and more costly
  • Level playing field – has been an EU goal. That’s not the case in the UK.

Brexit is being used by the UK to drive through a power grab from devolution. Why does that matter?

  • Food labelling – the different in the USA, and we will need a trade deal with them.
  • Food origin – the USA is against this, and we need a trade deal with them. The UK will negotiate on behalf of England – so whisky made in USA could be sold as Scotch.
  • Food regulation – it’s virtually certain that EU protection against chlorinated chicken etc will be lost. If we adopt US food standards, we could be eating maggots, insect eggs and rat hairs.
  • Agriculture – 17% of EU farm subsidies go to England, 80% to Scotland. That’s unlikely to continue.
  • Fracking – is likely to be forced through, as it has in England.
  • GM foods – are likely to be forced through in any trade deal with the USA.
  • NHS procurement – retaining this at Westminster allows the UK to privatise more of NHS Scotland.
  • Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act in England mandates that all contracts must be put out to tender. This makes the NHS competitive rather than collaborative – but collaboration is the secret behind the success of NHS Scotland in improving healthcare, in areas such as cancer treatment. A situation where Virgin can drain £2 million out of the NHS won’t lead to improved healthcare.

1 in 5 people in Scotland (and 1 in 4 children) are living in poverty (it’s worse in England). Poverty is the biggest driver in health and mental health, and Westminster is not going to improve things.

We’re approaching a fork in the road with Brexit – we have to campaign NOW. Last time there was the choice of a status quo – this time there isn’t.

In an independent Scotland, it will be the people of Scotland, and their Scottish Government, who will decide our future Health policy – including its funding.

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