Intended for healthcare professionals


Beyond the referendum

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 30 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3591

Where does the vote for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union leave the NHS, the health workforce, science, and research? The BMJ asked a range of people for their thoughts.

Kieran Walshe, professor of health policy and management at Manchester Business School

The NHS and universities both have highly internationalised and mobile workforces, and both benefit from the free movement of people within Europe. If Brexit threatens that free movement, or makes the UK a less attractive place to live and work, it will have a profound effect on health services and on higher education and research.

The best and the brightest, and those earlier in their careers with fewer institutional or family ties, are likely to vote with their feet and leave. NHS staff shortages and a downturn for research and teaching in higher education will follow.

Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists

There will be less money for the NHS and science. I cannot hide my anger with how swiftly the Leave campaign has admitted what we all knew—there never was £350 million a week for the NHS.

I know that there is unlikely to be any threat to the 10% of doctors and 5% of nurses from the EU who work here. But will we be able to attract the best doctors and scientists in the future? Because we need them more than ever.

Lindsey McKenna Maxwell, general paediatrician in Scotland

My professional concerns are about how we fill the staff gap in already stretched rotas if it becomes more difficult for EU nationals to work here, combined with the protection of the European Working Time Directive possibly being removed.

I worry for my junior colleagues, particularly those working under the new contract in England. My brother recently applied for GP training and made an active decision not to apply for posts in England because of concerns about fair pay and conditions—and that was before the Brexit decision.

I believe …

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