NHS Spending

Part of EU Nationals in the Uk – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Secretary of State for Health 6:02 pm, 6th July 2016

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for making that important point. We are seeing pressures on public health services and expenditure across the piece. What he says about ring-fencing money for diabetes is very important and I support him.

The Health Foundation think-tank says that

“Leading economists are…unanimous in concluding that leaving the EU will have a negative effect on the UK economy”.

As a result, the NHS budget could be fully £2.8 billion lower than currently planned by 2019-20. In the longer term, the NHS funding shortfall could be at least £19 billion by 2039, equivalent to £365 million a week—and that assumes that the UK is able to join the European economic area. If that does not happen, the shortfall could be as high as £28 billion, or £540 million a week.

Those figures are not just numbers in a ledger. We know what poor care means in practice. Today’s Care Quality Commission report on North Middlesex University Hospital revealed a series of terrible incidents: an evening when only one commode was available for more than 100 patients; a patient left sitting on a bedpan for more than an hour; and a patient who lay dead in A&E for four and a half hours before being found. We can foresee similar consequences in other hospitals if pressures bear down on the NHS budget, not only because of all sorts of externalities, but because we leave the EU.

We know about the endemic problems in the NHS. Earlier today, we discussed the junior doctors rejection of the Government’s new contracts. We know that nurses and midwives are in uproar because of the Government’s plan to scrap the bursaries that would-be nurses and midwives rely on when they are studying. A fresh injection of cash, as promised by the Vote Leave campaign, could not be more timely.

While we are talking about the implications of Brexit for the NHS, I remind Members that any restrictions on freedom of movement—a subject that is being discussed extensively in the wake of the Brexit vote—will be little less than disastrous for the NHS; 55,000 men and women in its workforce originate from the EU. It would be completely catastrophic for social care; 80,000 men and women out of 1.3 million workers in that field are EU nationals.

I represent a constituency that voted strongly for remain—I think that Hackney had the second highest remain vote in the country—and I believed that a remain vote was in the best interests of the UK, but as we heard earlier today in the House, there has been a horrifying upsurge in racist abuse and hate crime, triggered by the Brexit vote. It is as if people now have permission to be openly racist. It is interesting that Vote Leave supporters are now distancing themselves from anti-immigrant politics, but the unpleasantness unleashed by the Brexit campaign is already poisoning public discourse. However, I believe strongly in democracy, so I believe that we have to respect the referendum vote. In many cases, it was a cry of pain and rage against Westminster elites, and that is something on which we all have to reflect.

The late Member for Chesterfield, the right hon. Tony Benn, who was an opponent of the EU to his dying day, said:

“My view of the EU has always been not that I am hostile to foreigners but I am in favour of democracy.”

I respect those people who voted to leave. My experience of the EU campaign is that people wanted information, were trying to compare competing claims, and were doing their best to exercise their right to vote responsibly. The turnout was high. Nobody wants to think that the Vote Leave campaign peddled deliberately bogus slogans. I speak on behalf of not just Labour Members, but the British voting public as a whole. At a time when money was never more needed for the NHS, when can we expect to see the £350 million a week extra for the NHS that the Vote Leave campaign promised would be a consequence of the Brexit vote—or was it deceiving the public?