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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Prominent Leave campaigner brands her own side's literature as "deliberately misleading"

As both sides on the EU referendum debate seek to rubbish the other's facts and figures it is worth noting this article in the Independent in which a senior MP and one of the most prominent health experts backing Brexit, brands Vote Leave campaign’s NHS leaflets as “deliberately misleading”.

The paper reports that Dr Sarah Wollaston, a former GP and now chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, said that the Leave campaign should “stop treating the public like fools” by claiming that Brexit would free-up £350m a week to spend on the NHS:

While attacking “outlandish claims” on both sides of the EU debate, Dr Wollaston singled out Michael Gove’s warning last week over the dangers of increased immigration for the NHS.

“There are many reasons for the pressures on the NHS, but largely because we are living longer and with multiple and complex conditions,” she said in an article for The Times Red Box website. “As many have commented; if you meet a migrant in the NHS they are more likely to be caring for you than ahead of you in the queue.”

Dr Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, said that NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens had been right when he said on Sunday that the NHS was dependent on overseas staff.

“He also highlighted the dependence of the NHS on a strong economy and the knock on consequences for any uplift in funding of financial turbulence. In my view, it is an increase in the percentage of our national income that we spend on health and care that will save the NHS, not Brexit,” she writes.

As the paper says the Leave campaign has already been criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for claiming that the the cost of British membership of the EU is £350m a week as it does not take into account the UK’s rebate, or payments received from the EU. The actual net figure is between £110m and £135m a week.

It is little wonder that Dr. Wollaston says that the claim that there will be £350m a week extra to spend on the NHS if we leave is a cynical distortion which undermines the credibility of the Leave campaign's other arguments.
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