Opinions

Post-Brexit concerns highlighted by ALLIANCE members

Written by: Christopher Doyle, Policy and Information Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 13/09/2016

The results of a recent survey of ALLIANCE members on the potential impact of the Brexit vote on health and social care.

There have been no shortage of column inches devoted to commentary on the potential impact of the “Brexit” vote for Scotland over the last two and a bit months, whether it be in relation to fishing, travel, education, food and drink, or not least, the relationship with the rest of the UK.

Less prominent within the discourse so far, however, has been health and social care, perhaps unsurprising given that it is not an area of significant EU competence.  That said, the impact of the UK’s vote to leave the EU could have significant implications for people who use support and services, unpaid carers, third sector organisations and others.

In the immediate aftermath of the “Brexit” vote we carried out an ALLIANCE members’ survey to establish initial reactions to the result, with four main themes emerging.

Economic climate and impact on services

People felt that UK economic uncertainty as a result of the “Brexit” vote would place further strain on funding for already stretched health and social care services.  Combined with a loss of EU funding, respondents were fearful these ‘shocks’ would be experienced most sharply by the third sector.

Workforce

People acknowledged that many health and social care professionals currently working in the UK have come from other EU countries, made possible by the EU’s policy of freedom of movement and mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

Concerns were raised about the status of these staff after the UK exits the EU and over a damaging impact on workforce if our ability to attract and recruit such staff in the future is constrained.

Research and cross-border-collaboration

Potential loss of access to research opportunities was also highlighted as a key issue, with respondents stating that the referendum result would destabilise both formal and informal networks and relationships across Europe.  This was a particular concern in relation to research and partnership working around rare conditions, where the low numbers of people affected make it imperative to work across the EU.

Human rights

More broadly, a number of responses expected there to be a long term retraction of the rights of people living in the UK as a result of “Brexit”.  While the UK Government had already announced its intention to repeal the Human Rights Act well before the referendum, those responding to our survey believed that the result gave them “increased latitude” to do so.

It’s important to note that this wasn’t the only viewpoint however.  Just over a quarter of respondents felt that “Brexit” would have a ‘neutral’ effect on health and social care in Scotland whilst a small minority of 6 per cent were more optimistic that it would have a positive impact, citing that the UK’s new found ability to decentralise would outweigh any the loss of any previous benefits associated with EU membership.

As you would probably expect, the one common thread running through many of the submissions (regardless of stance) was a degree of uncertainty.  People tempered their responses by highlighting that the severity of any impacts would be dependent on the terms of future agreements between the UK and the EU.

We’ve written to the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee highlighting members concerns and would still like to hear members ideas on how we can support their understanding of the impact of “Brexit”.

The ALLIANCE’s “Brexit” Survey was carried out between 5 July and 2 August 2016, receiving 91 responses.

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