This article was first published on The Commentator
The NHS is now having to cope with around 3,000 additional people turning up to A&E every single day since last year. This is in so small measure due to massive uncontrolled EU migration. Leaving the EU is a great idea for many reasons, but cutting the strain on the NHS is a big one.
As 2017 came to a close and the New Year began, it became apparent the UK has established a new tradition. Every December and January the unrelenting strain on our NHS reaches a critical point, and the news cycle is dominated with stories of hospitals running out of space to house patients – even stacked in corridors.
This winter we could see as many as 55,000 operations cancelled.
Jeremy Hunt has issued a grovelling apology over the appalling performance of the NHS during the last few weeks, but has still failed to address the elephant in the room — the problems caused by the European Union.
Instead, Hunt appears to be placing the blame on older people who have had the temerity to live longer, after a lifetime of paying into the system.
While this crisis has no single cause, the EU’s policy of free movement of people – which is, in practice, unrestricted and unvetted immigration of citizens granted EU status, whether nationals or migrants – has unarguably acted as a significant catalyst, allowing for the rapid growth of the UK’s population.
The NHS is now forced to struggle under the ever-intensifying pressure which annual immigration in the hundreds of thousands brings. Yesterday Jeremy Hunt admitted the NHS is now having to cope with around 3,000 additional people turning up to A&E every single day since last year.
Our decades-long membership of the European Union has absurdly kept our borders open and has enabled unfettered access to the UK — and its health service — to more than 500 million EU citizens. While many continue to bury their heads in the sand over the cost of unrestricted migration, the NHS has simply been unable to keep pace with the demands placed upon it by the spiralling size of the population.
In the longer-term, immigration may produce a net economic benefit to the UK, and this impacts both sides of the NHS balance sheet. However, those communities disproportionately impacted by EU immigration, are not guaranteed — or necessarily given — additional funding for local services, such as hospitals and GP’s surgeries.
So, even though many EU migrants work and pay taxes, those tax revenues are not instantaneous, nor are they redistributed according to residency – and many migrants also claim benefits from our general social care system. In addition, local NHS trusts don’t receive possible migrant taxes to fund their now overburdened healthcare systems.
This has forced the NHS to attempt to treat an ever-expanding population without additional resources. At a minimum, this has exacerbated an existing crisis, if not created one in itself, presenting it with a Herculean task. The amount various Chancellors have granted to the NHS since this problem has increased, has not equalled the additional costs this problem has caused.
While this surge in the population has doubtlessly been detrimental to the ability of the NHS to provide the proper health services British citizens expect and have paid into, EU nationals working in the NHS make a valuable contribution to our hospitals and surgeries, making up around 5 percent of the NHS workforce.
Remain campaigners have sought to spread a myth of ‘Brexodus’ by foreign workers fleeing the NHS. In fact, the opposite is true. The number of EU nationals working in the NHS has increased by the thousands since Brexit. There are now more EU nationals working in the NHS than ever before – migration which has clearly benefited our health service.
Skilled labour and EU migration are two very separate issues. The unpredictable nature of unrestricted migration has worsened this crisis. For example, in 2004, the Government of the day, headed by the now reviled Tony Blair, told us immigration from Poland would number only tens of thousands, while in reality it has now ended up numbering millions.
This inability to predict how many additional migrants will arrive in the UK from the EU at any given time, means the Government is unable to accurately set out long term strategies for the NHS.
This has left the NHS lacking medical staff, hospital beds and equipment where they are needed, meaning a sharp increase in waiting times for planned operations, and patients having to wait outside hospitals in ambulances. In December, 16,893 patients waited 30 minutes and more in ambulances outside A&E before being admitted for emergencies. This is unacceptable.
Unrestricted mass migration restricts the Government’s ability to plan where additional services will be required to help avert crises like the ones we are currently seeing. The sooner we get the best Brexit for Great Britain, and have the ability to end unrestricted migration by leaving the European Union, the better.
It’s not only immigration from the EU which is impacting the NHS, but also overregulation. The EU’s Working Time Directive restricts the maximum working week to 48 hours and sets out the daily and weekly rest breaks available to employees.
The Directive limits working hours, meaning – even in emergencies – less staff are available. The Directive even disregards the possibility of employees wanting to work a few extra hours, even if they want to earn more money. If a nurse or doctor wants to work without the entitled rest break, or more than 48 hours a week and they are deemed fit to work by their superiors or in an emergency, why should they be stopped from doing so by the bureaucrats in Brussels?
At a time of increased demand on NHS resources, we cannot afford to prevent medical staff working when they want to, and when it is deemed safe for them to do so, even if this exceeds what EU rules and regulations think should be the limit.
This forces NHS trusts to rely on temporary and agency workers – whose hourly rates are considerably higher than permanent staff – to fill skills gaps their own trained employees could cover, and are often willing to do. This is an unnecessary and monumental waste of the NHS resources.
No-one would deny the need for medical staff to be well-rested and work in favourable working conditions. However, these are not always helpful where flexibility is required. In 24-hour hospitals, specialist units and small rural surgeries they struggle to maintain the necessary services in these circumstances.
When we leave the EU, we will be able to take back control of the close to £20 billion we send to Brussels every year – as well as control our borders and have the right to decide our own immigration policy. Our money will once again be spent at the discretion of our own elected politicians, many of whom have pledged extra money for the NHS, a deeply deserving and necessary service which is, no doubt, first in line for additional funds.
Once outside of the diktat of EU-imposed mass migration, and able to spend our Brexit dividend, the Government will be well placed to alleviate the pressure on the NHS. This can only be achieved once we Get Britain Out of the EU.
Daniel Huggins is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out