This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the debate scheduled to take place in the House of Lords on 29 March 2018 on the following motion moved by Baroness Brinton (Liberal Democrat): “that this House takes note of the effect of the United Kingdom’s planned withdrawal from the European Union on the health and welfare of United Kingdom citizens and residents”.
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Many people from EU-27 countries, relying on the EU’s rules regarding free movement, work in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). The proportion of NHS (excluding primary care) staff from EU-27 countries rose slightly between September 2015 and September 2017, from 4.99 percent to 5.56 percent. In social care, 7 percent of workers were from the EU-27 in 2016/17. Since 2012/13 the proportion of workers from non-EU countries in social care has fallen, and the proportion from EU-27 countries has risen.
It has been argued that when the UK leaves the EU more money will be available for public services, as a result of the UK no longer being required to make contributions to the EU budget. However, others have emphasised the potentially greater impact of Brexit on the UK’s economy.
As a member of the EU, the UK currently participates in arrangements which allow UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, as well as those travelling for short periods, to access healthcare while abroad. The Government and the EU have stated that those exercising these rights before the end of the transition period will continue to be able to do so. The Government has also stated that it would like to negotiate continued access to these arrangements for those travelling after the transition period.
Upon its departure from the EU, the UK will cease to be a full member of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The Prime Minister has said she would like the UK to become an associate member after its withdrawal from the EU, to ensure UK patients are not disadvantaged in accessing medical products.