There are two groups of people enjoying the run-up to the EU referendum – masochists and fact checkers (more of them later). Even the politicians themselves look miserable: head teacher David Cameron grimacing at a class of unruly Tory backbenchers; Jeremy Corbyn’s arm-twisted ‘If I must…’ support for Remain; Nigel Farage nervously eyeing 24 June like a popular end-of-pier turn watching summer draw to an end.
But our collective weariness should not overlook that there are serious issues at stake: one of which is the NHS. Even setting aside one’s incredulity at UKIP’s conversion to the cause of socialised health care, Leave have chucked around some dubious claims here, on the cost of health tourism and a dividend of £350million that they claim could be spent on the NHS.
This has led to sharp criticism from one of their more thoughtful supporters, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP. As she points out: ‘If you meet a migrant in the NHS they are more likely to be caring for you than ahead of you in the queue.’ Tireless fact-checkers Full Fact back this up, showing that the EU supplies the NHS with 4% of its nurses, a modest number perhaps, but it has risen sharply over the last few years to compensate for our homegrown shortages.
The Eurosceptic Dr Wollaston has been honest enough to write: ‘An increase in the percentage of our national income spent on health and care will save the NHS, not Brexit.’ It invites a similar admission from the Remainers, that we must do more at home to recruit and train nurses. We can’t always look to the EU to plug the gaps in our NHS.
Mike Shallcross, acting editor, Independent Nurse