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Monday, July 29, 2019

The impact of Brexit on our national finances and our health service

When I read that the Brexit Party bus had come off the road and been abandoned in the middle of Powys over the weekend, my first thought was that it was a pity it did not have the aborted promise of an extra £350m a week for the NHS painted on the side.

Three years on and that promise has not just been discredited and shown to be a lie, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Brexit will in fact be disastrous for our health service and for the public finances on which it depends for its funding.

As this article in the Independent points out, the presence of EU doctors and nurses is worth more than £3 billion to the UK economy over five years. That sum represents the taxes paid by an average of more than 11,000 doctors and 31,000 nurses as well as savings on the cost of training British replacements.

The figures were released by the medical firm Medbelle amid concerns that the ending of free movement of labour after Brexit may deter skilled workers from the continent, such as doctors, from coming to Britain:

"Everyone working within the UK medical profession, whether NHS or private, knows the huge value that foreign-born doctors and nurses bring to the UK in terms of their experience, wealth of knowledge and support," said Medbelle CEO Daniel Kolb.

"However, an aspect that is often overlooked from the outside is not only how much money EU medical workers contribute to the UK in income tax and social contributions, but also how much the government has saved in terms of education.

“To educate all the EU-born doctors and nurses who came to the UK between 2014 - 2018 would have cost the government over £1.6 billion."

Medbelle's calculations - based on official OECD figures - found the cost of educating 11,159 doctors to replace EU nationals would be more than £425 million.

And educating 31,202 British nurses to fill jobs currently taken by EU nationals would cost a further £1.2 billion, said the company, which provides a "digital hospital" service allowing patients to arrange private treatment through an app.

The company calculated the tax paid by EU national doctors from 2014-18 at £580 million and nurses at £900 million.

Mr Kolb said: "We hope that this study can shine a light on the value of foreign labour in the medical industry, and that those in charge will be adequately prepared to increase funding into medical education to compensate after Brexit.”

Put that on the side of your bus, Boris.
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