A Brexit deal that fails to establish an arrangement with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) could cost the NHS £144 million a week (or £7.5bn a year), according to The Economist’s Intelligence unit.
The figures, revealed yesterday during a House of Commons Select Committee with the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, spelt worrying news for an NHS that is already having recruitment problems.
Mr Hunt said: ‘there are potential additional costs,’ and that a weaker pound meant higher costs for medicines from Europe.
The Economist’s analysis, based on the assumption that the UK does not achieve an adequate arrangement with the EMA and EU, estimates that the increased recruitment costs and higher prices for medicines would drive up costs for the NHS to the tune of £7.5bn a year.
In response to questioning on Brexit’s impact on the NHS, Mr Hunt said: ‘Brexit will pose a number of challenges for the NHS, there’s no two ways about that. The most immediate challenge it poses is in respect to the NHS staff from the EU.’
There are currently 62,000 EU nationals working in the NHS, including 21,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors – meaning 10% of all UK doctors are from the EU.
With a reduction of 92% in the number of EU nurse applications this year and about 10,000 EU national leaving the NHS since the Brexit vote, there is serious cause for concern regarding the future of NHS recruitment.
Mr Hunt recognised the ‘fantastic job’ that EU nationals do in the NHS and said, ‘we’re confident that they’ll be able to stay.’
He also admitted, however, that Brexit presented a ‘period of great uncertainty’ and that it was ‘very important to secure a good deal from the EU.’