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I know – you are probably sick of Brexit by now. But there is one point on it that I need to get off my chest: the Prime Minister is continuing to link the £20.5bn a year increase in NHS funding with the Brexit dividend – the £350m a week we save from being out of the EU that was plastered over the big red bus.
In a radio interview with LBC, Theresa May said: ‘When we leave the EU we won’t be sending the vast amounts of money to the EU every year that we do at the moment …that means we will have money to spend on priorities like the NHS… It will mean £394 million more a week going into the NHS.’
Disregarding the baffling politics behind continuing this line – even Nigel Farage distanced himself from that pledge – it has to be put into context.
The £20.5bn was essential to the extent that even the Government couldn’t ignore the need for funding. The Health Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies said earlier in the year that this funding is just enough to maintain current service levels. And the investment represents a 3.4% increase – below the average historic 3.7% increase since 1948. In other words, the Government would have little choice but to invest, regardless of Brexit.
Whatever your views on Brexit, there is little indication that it will help the NHS, other than this fabled funding. But there is plenty to suggest it will harm the NHS, and general practice: EU doctors say they don’t trust the Government; we are stockpiling medicines in case of future supply issues following our exit; and we still don’t know how it will harm recruitment when we are already in the middle of a staffing crisis.
The £20.5bn will be used for NHS England’s ten-year plan. It may be a document that changes NHS and general practice for the better. But let’s not pretend that it will in any way be helped by leaving the EU.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor Pulse. You can follow him on Twitter @jkaffash