Brexit could spell disaster for general practice

Published: 20 Jun 2016

brexit

The EU referendum is almost upon us and for the very first time the Leave vote has edged ahead in opinion polls.

So is Britain trembling on the precipice of economic and political oblivion, or are we on the cusp of a brave new era in British politics, helmed by the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove? Is Brexit about to be banished to the place where unfashionable portmanteaus go to die, or are we going to be unpicking the mess and hearing this godforsaken word for the rest of our miserable lives? We will find out on 23 June.

But what of the nation’s poor, downtrodden GPs? Could Brexit make things even worse in the world of NHS primary care? It’s a scary thought given the profession’s current woes, but I fear a victory for the Leave campaign could spell disaster for general practice.

Doctors typically value evidence, something there has been precious little of in a referendum debate fuelled by partisan opinion. A primary focus on immigration and the economy was to be expected, but both campaigns have found ample time to kick around that ever-popular political football, the NHS. Frustratingly, the arguments have been about as coherent as an England football fan after a day’s drinking in the French sun.

The Vote Leave campaign’s website proudly boasts that ‘the £350 million we give to the EU every week could pay for a fully staffed NHS hospital’. This is an emotive but hugely over-simplistic statement, designed to mislead. While our contribution to the EU would fall with Brexit, not necessarily to zero, there is a strong likelihood our national income would fall too.

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