Along with current staff shortages experienced by the NHS, a UK think tank warns that following Brexit, care for British pensioners could double Britain’s healthcare costs, reaching £1 billion. 

Returning pensioners will increase financial burden

The announcement made by the think tank, The Nuffield Trust, explains that currently, Britain functions in a reciprocal system with the EU, called the S1 scheme. In it, British nationals living in the EU have the right to receive the same health care as the local population in any other EU member state.

Britain pays £500 million for this annually, but if they had to leave this agreement, they would have to pay £1 billion to care for the retirees. Additionally, about 190,000 British pensioners live abroad and the Trust believes that if they all decided to return to the UK following Brexit then they could be expected to fill 900 NHS hospital beds a year.

In a bid to save money, the NHS are also offering GP’s cash back if they are able to ration drugs for elderly care-home patients. Although the money will go into practice funds, GPs and patient groups have slated the move. The British Medical Association has said that while their medication need to be reviewed since they take so many pills, it should be done with a view for what is best for the patient and not cost cutting.

Staff shortages will also worsen

If the migration of skilled workers from the EU is stopped, the Trust says there will be a shortage of 70,000 carers by 2025/2026. The NHS is already facing a shortage of nurses “due to the ageing population and a renewed emphasis on safe staffing,” the Trust said.

One of the researchers, Mark Dayan said, “You can’t just turn on a tap and produce these things. They’re limited resources and are already overstretched in the NHS.”

“The impact of staffing shortages, are that some places won’t have enough staff to operate safely, or agency staff will have to be brought in at high rate, which will make the NHS’s financial position even worse.”

Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association said, “existing chronic staff shortages could be worsened as half of the 10,000 EEA doctors working in the NHS are considering leaving the UK.” The government has been recruiting doctors from India and Pakistan recently, to curb the shortage.

Predictions set medication costs to rise too. If the UK is forced to leave the European medicines licensing system then the medication costs could rise by £100 million.

The health charity The King’s Fund recently revealed that more than 40% of clinical commissioning groups plan to review or cut planned procedures such as hip and knee operations. Additionally, 2.5 million patients spent longer than four hours in Accident and Emergency and 26,283 patients waited more than 62 days for cancer treatment despite having been urgently referred by their GP.

There may be a silver lining

However, the Trust has also said that there could be scope for saving and those campaigning to leave before the election, estimated that £350 million a week could be available to the NHS once Britain left.

“It is possible that extra funds could be found for the NHS from any cancellation of Britain’s EU membership fees – but whether or not these benefits will outweigh the significant staffing and financial costs Brexit may impose on already stretched services remains to be seen,” Dayan reasoned.

It is unlikely most expats will want to move back as most planned to live out the rest of their days in sunnier European climates. However, low finances might force them to - Spanish healthcare is more expensive than the NHS. MIMS

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