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NHS could face £500m bill after Brexit if pensioners abroad return home


By Carolyn Wickware
31 May 2017

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Brexit could leave the NHS with a £500m bill if retired British people living abroad return to the UK, according to the Nuffield Trust think-tank.

The analysis by researchers at the think-tank said this figure could be higher if the NHS has to pay to replace staff lost due to a halt in migration.

Care homes and home care agencies could be short as many as 70,000 staff by 2025/26 if migration of unskilled workers from the EU stops after Brexit.

Brexit could leave the NHS with a £500m bill if retired British people living abroad return to the UK, according to the Nuffield Trust think-tank.

The analysis by researchers at the think-tank said this figure could be higher if the NHS has to pay to replace staff lost due to a halt in migration.

Care homes and home care agencies could be short as many as 70,000 staff by 2025/26 if migration of unskilled workers from the EU stops after Brexit.

In its second pre-election briefing, the think-tank said public concerns around Brexit and the NHS are closely connected, with 190,000 British pensioners living in other EU countries and receiving healthcare under the EU reciprocal ‘S1’ scheme.

The think tank estimates that if this scheme is withdrawn, the cost to the NHS will be around £979m – a net increase of £500m when the Government’s contribution to the S1 scheme is considered.

Beyond the monetary implications, around 900 extra beds would be needed to care for this number of pensioners, while the NHS will no longer have access to as wide a supply of medicines at a good price if the UK leaves the EU’s medicine licensing system.

Mark Dayan, Nuffield Trust policy and public affairs analyst, said if Brexit is handled badly, leaving the EU could make the health and social care problems facing the NHS even worse.

He said: ‘It is possible that extra funds could be found for the NHS from any cancellation of Britain’s EU membership fees – but whether or not these benefits will outweigh the significant staffing and financial costs Brexit may impose on already stretched services remains to be seen. 

‘That depends largely on the NHS being recognised as a significant priority as we enter some of the most important negotiations in Britain’s history.’

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