It’s been almost a year since the Conservative Party’s shiny double-decker eye-candy took its victory lap, dangling the juicy slogan “let’s fund our NHS instead.” The dust has settled, maybe a little. So, what’s changed? In our latest study, we asked more than 100 top executives and leaders among NHS trusts about the pressures they are feeling as a result of Brexit. Some of these challenges are being felt now, even though ties between the UK and the EU will not officially be severed for some time. Other challenges are coming.
An interesting takeaway is how perceptions are shifting among many NHS leaders and becoming deeper seated among others since the referendum vote. more than 60% of participants cite the impacts of Brexit on the NHS will be significantly more negative than originally believed. It’s probably not a revelation to many that NHS personnel have a liberal tilt compared to other demographics. So, it’s noteworthy that many staunch opposers of Brexit, who began with the most adversarial position, left themselves enough room to double down in suggesting the effects will be far worse than originally believed. Of even greater alarm, we estimate that more than 25% of conservative leaders in the NHS now think the impacts will be more negative than originally believed. This early look at the aftermath will be confirmation to some and a revelation to others (if there is a will to see it).
Among those who stated their perception had changed to a more negative outlook (which was the majority), staffing is by far the biggest issue on their plates. Many are already seeing key personnel such as nurses and junior physicians pulling up stakes and moving back to their home countries in the EU. One chief executive stated approximately 15% of their staff come from other EU countries. Adding fuel to the fire, new EU graduates are showing significant reluctance to consider the UK for employment causing pressure on both ends—many leaving the country and fewer prospects open to recruitment. In an exercise of overkill, we asked participants to rate the impact of Brexit on staffing over the next 5 years (scale of 1-7). This data point is one of the heaviest weighted responses to the negative we’ve seen in any study conducted over the past few years. In our rough estimation, we believe over half of conservatives in NHS trust leadership agree (maybe not openly) with their counterparts about the negative outlook on staffing.
Also in the data is the perceived likelihood that NHS trusts will receive additional funding and impacts to IT spending. In both cases participants don’t buy the idea that new funding is on the way. In fact, this is not a party line belief. No one is holding their breath.
We are extremely grateful to our generous participants for their willing feedback and candor, and hope our readers find value in the insights. At this point, about the only stone left unturned is about the fate of the big red bus. If there is ever a Brexit museum, hopefully it will resurface as the crown jewel.