Most hospital leaders believe that the NHS staffing crisis would worsen considerably and medical research would be significantly damaged if the country votes to leave the European Union, a new survey by NHS Providers has found.

Senior Brexit campaigners such as Boris Johnson have repeatedly claimed that the NHS would benefit to the tune of up to £350 million per week of additional health spending after a “Leave” vote, as this money is currently sent to Brussels.

But the new study reveals NHS Trust chief executives and chairs to be deeply unconvinced by these claims: 75 per cent believe that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on the entire NHS. None of the respondents believe that a Brexit would have a “very positive” effect.

The survey, which sampled the views of 96 per cent of CEOs and chairs from England’s hospital, ambulance, community and mental health Trusts, found the following:

  • Over a third of Trust CEOs and chairs feel that a Brexit would have “some” or a “very” negative impact on NHS funding, although 40 per cent feel that a Leave vote would not impact NHS funding at all.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) believe that a Brexit would damage the UK health service’s access to medical knowledge from EU-wide professional networks, clinical trials, or other innovations and research. Eighty per cent believe that a Leave vote would reduce access to funding for research and innovation.
  • Nevertheless, 42 per cent feel that a Brexit would have “some” or a “very” positive effect on competition and procurement rules affecting their trusts.

The most striking finding was on staffing, where 80 per cent of CEOs and chairs feel that a Brexit vote would have a negative impact on their Trusts’ efforts to recruit health care professionals.

EU countries currently supply 17,138 nurses and health visitors to the NHS – six per cent of the staffing total. The continent also supplies just under 10,000 doctors – approximately nine per cent of the total.

This isn’t the first time that the NHS’s staffing problems have been in the news this week. On Monday, BBC News reported that NHS Trusts were being forced to breach centrally imposed pay caps on agency staff more than 50,000 times a week in order to avert staffing shortages that would endanger patient safety.

The NHS is currently heavily reliant on the input of nurses contracting via Umbrella Companies and locum doctors to maintain safe staffing levels.

The pay caps were condemned in April by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation as “myopic” and “illogical,” driving temporary nurses and doctors away from the NHS. But in combination with a Brexit vote, things could be about to become a good deal worse.

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