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Feature Medicine and the Media

The Brexit broadcast that stoked fears over the NHS’s future

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 05 August 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4342
  1. Meg Carter, freelance journalist
  1. Bath, UK
  1. meg{at}

Official messaging before the recent UK vote on EU membership contained misinformation and scaremongering about the implications for the NHS. Meg Carter reports

The NHS was a key issue for the Leave and Remain camps in the recent UK referendum on whether to continue with European Union membership. But both campaigns’ tactics have been criticised.

One emotive broadcast by Vote Leave, first shown on the UK’s five terrestrial channels in May, implored viewers to “Help save the NHS on June 23.”1 Military-style arrows on maps showed Turkey’s accession to the EU. “Our NHS is at breaking point,” it said.

It continued with an anxious elderly mother and her daughter attending an emergency department. The split screen film compared alternative events, depending on the outcome of the referendum. “Outside the EU,” on the right of the screen, the clinic had more staff with less paperwork, emptier waiting rooms, and a faster, happier outcome, compared with “inside the EU” on the left. …

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