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Brexit - Deal or No Deal - Implications for the Care Industry

Deal or No Deal - Brexit Implications for the Care Industry

Spending so much time in your care homes and with care home owners and managers, we can see and feel the rising tide of concern over the potential implications of Brexit – whichever version we end up with!

Although the EU has limited legal jurisdiction over how health and care services are organised and provided in member states, the UK’s vote to leave the EU will have major implications for health and social care in England.

Whether a No Deal option sees us crashing out of the European single market and the customs union, or Theresa May’s ‘compromise’ deal being accepted somehow in Parliament, either way current arrangements that play a vital role in the facilitating the delivery of healthcare via access to workforce and goods and services, is going to significantly change.    

Second because EU directives affect many areas of UK law that impact on the delivery of health and care services. Third, because the vote has ushered in a period of significant economic and political uncertainty at a time when the NHS and social care are already facing huge financial and operational pressures.

Two years of Brexit negotiations and all its ensuing media coverage have already had an impact, especially on the recruitment and retention of EU nationals in some parts of the workforce, which is contributing to shortages of key staff. 

The policy of freedom of movement and mutual recognition of professional qualifications within the EU means that many health and social care professionals currently working in the UK have come from other EU countries. This includes nearly 62,000 (5.6 per cent) of the English NHS’s 1.2 million workforce and an estimated 95,000 (around 7 per cent) of the 1.3 million workers in England’s adult social care sector (NHS Digital 2017; Skills for Care 2017). The proportion of EU workers in both the NHS and the social care sector has been growing over time, suggesting that both sectors have become increasingly reliant on EU migrants.

The care industry therefore welcomes the recent announcement that EU citizens currently living in the UK will be able to remain. We hope it will persuade as many of them as possible to stay and continue to make a valuable contribution to the health and care workforce.

Employers are being advised to make initial steps in refreshing all contracts, particularly right to work eligibility, with a longer term view to contract renewals at the point we leave the EU.

EU nationals will need to understand the impact of Brexit on their immigration status, and employers who rely on EU nationals will need to review and protect the stability of their business.

Employers are being advised to consider supporting and encouraging early applications for permanent residence from those employees who qualify

The UK’s membership of the European single market, customs union and Euratom has provided significant benefits. Securing equivalent access to new drugs and treatments must be a priority in the next phase of negotiations. 

The government has set an ambition for the UK to be a world leader in life sciences and medical research. To fulfil this ambition, it will be essential for the government to make good any loss in EU funding for research and development and that the UK continues to benefit from the collaboration of researchers and scientists across the EU. 

Perhaps most importantly, if independent forecasts are correct and more recently the Bank of England forecast that Brexit will have a significant long term negative impact on the economy, this will of course reduce the funding and resources for health and social care.

For ourselves, we are seeing a large number of price increases coming through already, an uncertainty in the global currencies resulting in a weaker buying position for us in some instances and overseas suppliers already looking for ‘UK’ contracts as opposed to EU based law. There is no doubt we have an unsteady ship to steer.

Authored BY MD Jayne Graves