EU referendum: Leaving Europe 'could slash billions from NHS budget', Heidi Alexander warns

The Lewisham East MP said that leaving the EU could leave the NHS with a £10.5bn funding blackhole

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Wednesday 08 June 2016 10:35 BST
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The future of 130,000 European NHS employees and care workers would also be put in doubt if we voted to leave, Ms Alexander warns
The future of 130,000 European NHS employees and care workers would also be put in doubt if we voted to leave, Ms Alexander warns (Corbis)

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Every hospital in the country may have to cut 1,000 nurses or 155 doctors from their staff in the event of Brexit, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary has warned.

Heidi Alexander said that leaving the EU could leave the NHS with a £10.5bn funding blackhole, hitting hospital budgets and risking major staff cuts.

The future of 130,000 European NHS employees and care workers would also be put in doubt if we voted to leave, the Lewisham East MP said.

In a speech in London today, she will point to House of Commons library analysis based on the worst-case scenario after Brexit, as set out by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which suggests that the economic impact of leaving the EU could lead to the Department of Health to slashing billions from its spending.

Attacking Leave campaigners who have claimed that Brexit would be good for the NHS and pledged to redirect £100m extra a week to the health service, Ms Alexander said it was “utterly astonishing” that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were characterising all Remain campaigners as the “elite establishment that has been brainwashed by Brussels bureaucrats”.

“My view of the world is informed by going to a comprehensive school in Swindon, in contrast to them. I’m the daughter of an electrician, my mum was a dinner lady, I didn’t go to Eton, I didn’t have those privileges,” she said.

Labelling Vote Leave’s warnings about the impact of migration on the NHS “misleading, simplistic and complete and utter nonsense” she argued that immigration had been overwhelmingly good for the health service.

“You are a lot more likely to come across a migrant in a hospital who is caring for you than one who is in the bed next to you,” she said.

“I think of my own family. Two years ago my gran passed away and who was the person who sat by her bedside and dabbed water on her lips in the days before she passed away? It was a Polish care assistant called Kristina. We have to be honest about the benefits that migrants have brought to the country," she said.

52,000 non-British Europeans work in the NHS, a figure which rises to 130,000 when care workers are included. It is not clear what their working status would be if Britain were to leave the EU and there are concerns that many will seek to work in an EU country rather than update their visa.

Vote Leave said that the House of Commons library research was based on “dodgy assumptions”.

“It is clear that the NHS benefits from having talented nurses and doctors but our immigration system makes it harder to bring those professionals in from across the world while increasing pressures in the waiting room,” a campaign spokesperson said.

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