Regardless of the political implications of Britain’s impending European Union exit, professionals within the healthcare sector have been almost unanimous when speaking out against the decision. There are various issues that we can expect to be raised as a result, some of them affecting our health as a nation either directly or indirectly. Here are the top four areas we expect to see suffer as a result of the EU exit.
4) Medical research – Without the EU, there are more barriers to efficiently sharing scientific research between countries. The UK currently benefits greatly from the information our own researchers have access to overseas, but being increasingly isolated from this will likely make progress slower, and we may miss out on crucial developments.
3) Smoking – European health campaigns against smoking tobacco have been supported by the EU and highly effective. Moreover, EU laws limiting the advertising that cigarette companies can undertake have had a great effect on UK businesses. Removing these restrictions may leave UK consumers more vulnerable to the exploitation of the resulting loopholes, and we know based on decades of evidence that advertising tobacco smoking is extremely costly for overall public health.
2) Pollution regulations – The EU imposes regulations in the UK about standards for clean water and air. Without these, pollution and abuse by companies is more likely to spread, which is supported by recent research into the UK’s own standards compared to Europe’s, and raises worrying health issues for the general population. CO2 emissions are also limited under EU laws, which reduced them by 80% since the introduction of the scheme several decades ago. This effect reduces the impact of climate change and other hazards like acid rain, all of which are extremely costly when left unchecked, in the short and long term.
1) Funding for healthcare – One of the major reasons commonly cited by people voting to leave the EU was the cost of remaining in it. Many people argued that funding should go to the NHS instead, and that leaving would immediately reduce pressure on the system due to reduced immigration. However, evidence suggests that not only do immigrants account for a lower-than-average proportion of financial strain on the NHS, but the other health and economic costs to the country of leaving are already undermining any money that could have been saved, likely increasing the deficit instead. All this is likely to magnify the other negative effects, and in a worst case scenario could lead to an uncontrolled downward spiral of funding in the field.