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What impact will Brexit have on the NHS and universities?

I spoke recently at a Public Policy Exchange Symposium on the topic of ‘Brexit: What impact will it have on the NHS and universities?” The event was chaired by Dr Philippa Whitford MP. In my presentation, I outlined how Brexit will lead to major challenges for the UK’s NHS and universities, as well as for public health and the life sciences industry in the UK.

For the NHS, key issues include the retention of NHS employees from other EU countries; and the future recruitment of health professionals after the UK leaves the EU. The NHS will need to implement policies to train considerably more health professionals (including doctors) and retain them in the workforce. Another key issue is the right to publicly-funded healthcare of the EU nationals living in the UK and the UK nationals living in other EU countries. The future of the EHIC card also needs to be determined.

For public health, a key issue will be how the UK participates in future EU-wide public health initiatives. These cover many areas including food regulations, road safety, air pollution, tobacco control, and chemical hazards; and are important when dealing with cross-national issues (e.g. air pollution) or with large multi-national corporations.

There are also uncertainties for the wider health economy including the future location of the European Medicines Agency and the risk that the UK may become less-favoured as a site for commercially supported clinical research.

For universities, there will be a loss of research funding from the EU, less scope to recruit academic staff from other EU countries and threats to our future participation in the ERASMUS Student Mobility Programme. We also need to consider if and how we continue to take part in the Bologna Process (agreements between EU countries to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications). Linked to this is a risk that students from the EU may be less likely to apply to study at UK universities, particularly if their fees increase to the level paid by overseas students.

In conclusion, Brexit will have important impacts on the NHS and the UK’s universities. Most impacts appear to be negative. It's important that the NHS and universities engage with government to ameliorate these risks and also gain public support (e.g. to reinforce that immigration has positive benefits).

A copy of my presentation can be viewed on Slideshare.

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