Post Brexit, will a right wing goverment wash its hands of the NHS?

The vote for Brexit has not changed the challenges facing the NHS a bit - but it has probably made it much harder to meet them.

Kailash Chand
1 July 2016

The vote for Brexit - and the economic and political instability it has ushered in - is a recipe for huge risk and uncertainty for NHS. The repercussions of Brexit may be so catastrophic that it destablises the NHS to the point of disintegration. 

I fear for the future of the NHS. I fear for those who need to use it – the old, vulnerable and  sick. I fear for those who work in the NHS. Last week’s vote for Britain to leave the EU has not changed the challenges facing the NHS a bit - but it has  likely made it much harder to meet them.

What we are left with is confusion and uncertainty. In so many areas the NHS is at a crossroads. It now faces a recipe for indecision which in could harm the service and those it serves. Cuts in the name of “efficiency savings” have eaten away at the NHS to the point where it is down to its bare bones. Health spending is facing almost unimaginable cuts over the next five years. Every health think-tank has been sounding the alarm  in recent months. This isn’t shroud-waving – the figures show the NHS is on its knees. 

The nation, faced with a collapsing economy and an NHS struggling to control increasing demands, treasury, might finally lose patience and take an even firmer grip on the services’ finances. If economy nose dives as predicted, the chancellor of a new administration could even seek to end the service’s already leaking funding ‘ring-fence’.

The civil servant in charge of the NHS, Simon Stevens, had already warned the NHS confederation there would be what he referred to as a “re-set on the money” for the NHS in July. Stevens also stressed how “bloody tough” the coming years would be given the funding settlement Osborne had already imposed.


There is speculation that Stevens’ political influence may diminish with the departure of David Cameron and George Osborne, who oversaw his appointment, and with whom he has worked closely. More importantly and worryingly, a vacuum of political oversight in coming months could easily lead to further moves to reduce access, safety and quality the quality of patient care. My real worry is a more right-wing government would use NHS funding crisis to tell British public that a free universal health care is not affordable, and wash its hands of the NHS.

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