Will NHS sink because of Brexit?
The largest and the oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world, The National Health Service of England, is currently in crisis, and a solution is not in sight.
NHS’s crisis can be described through several reasons. First, the growing aging population who use health services the most; second, the budget cuts of funding for social care, which has increased the demand for NHS; and third, the nonchalant hospital bed occupiers, who do not give up their beds to those who really need them. The increasing demand, logically, has raised a need for new staff, which has raised costs of medical care, while the amount of funding remains the same. Around 98% funds of the NHS come from the UK budget, from central taxation, and the rest come from patient charges or co-payments.
The main concern remains whether Brexit would further ruin the NHS, or save it? Indeed, the funding can be redirected from the EU budget to the NHS. Doing this would also decrease immigration pressure on the NHS. However, there will be a shortage of the medical staff, because almost half of them are citizens of the other EU economies. Post Brexit, there is also a chance that the UK budget may not have enough funds to allocate for the NHS.
Philip Hammond is currently in a great dilemma. His promises about tax rates, reducing corporate taxes to the minimum if necessary, and making UK’s businesses more competitive are on the one hand. On the other hand, are some necessary evils that the economy must face. Hammond must raise taxes to collect enough money to increase funding for the NHS and social care. Also, he must prepare the economy for possible turbulent times after Brexit. Theresa May also doesn’t see a solution in raising more money in the short term, but in finding a sustainable funding model. Thus, Hammond has suggested that the solution could be that people, after they have died, should pay care costs, which would decrease their assets. Of course, this was met with disapproval, because everyone wants to leave something to their children.
Since the demand for NHS is steadily growing in recent years, it is evident that it will need much more funds in the following years. However, without enough money to cover a rising demand, a quality of patients’ care would be much lower, there would be a cut off of staff and waiting times would be longer.
The solution of NHS crisis can go in two directions – to reduce demand, or increase funding. Demand can be reduced to a certain extent through investment in the training of medical personnel to treat patients on time, and increasing precautionary care measures, and not postponing treatment and bearing the high costs of care when the ailing patient avails hospital care. Another way is to increase the NHS’s productivity. Demand could also be reduced by reducing the pressure of social care for users of the NHS, which assumes increasing social benefits. Funds for both NHS and social care can be provided in several ways. One of them is an increase in national insurance contributions for self-employed people who pay less than employees or in taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. In addition, a decrease in government spending is always a good deal. Another solution could be also to introduce a dedicated tax just for the NHS and the social care system. People may not be against it, because they would know that is for their sake.