Health Professionals’ Brexit Fears


The continued uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) has prompted some healthcare professionals to move overseas in search for more stability and some of them are now calling Australia home. Concerned not just about the effect of ‘Brexit’ on the local economy and transport, but also the impact on the healthcare system in Britain, high-level healthcare professionals are bringing their skills and experience to Australian institutions.

Many medical research facilities in the UK rely on the expertise of overseas scientists who may face increased difficulty in obtaining the necessary visa to work in Britain after it leaves the EU. This lack of expert input and a reduced level of staffing in healthcare overall are causing many to worry about the future of medical research in the UK and look for opportunities elsewhere around the globe.

Of particular concern is the medical funding that Britain currently receives from the European Union, which is expected to decrease by two thirds once Britain leaves. Consequently, a number of health academics are looking to relocate internationally. Given the recent boosts to medical research funding in Australia and the high standards of Australian universities, choosing to live and work ‘down under’ is often a top choice.

Implications of Brexit on medical supply

Currently, Britain is set to leave the EU without a deal in place, making it difficult for those working in health to plan ahead. The lack of a deal for Brexit is also creating concern that medical supply chains will be disrupted. Around 75 percent of medicines used by the health service enter Britain via the EU and the UK imports an estimate 37 million packets of medicine every month from the European Union.

Pharmaceutical suppliers in the UK were advised last year to stockpile six weeks’ worth of additional prescription medication. People living in Britain are reportedly already stocking up on items such as painkillers which has already resulted in a shortage of some medicines. The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) in the UK has urged people patients not to stockpile drugs or put their GP in a difficult position by asking them to help stockpile medications.

In January of this year, Britain’s health minister stated that the country had purchased 5,000 fridges and secured warehouse space to stockpile provisions including an identified 7,000 prescription-only and pharmacy medicines.

However, some British hospitals are concerned that elective operations may need to be cancelled due to lack of medication and many healthcare professionals are concerned about price rises of pharmaceutical products if supply falls. The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has called on the government to provide details about stocks of drugs nationally so that its members can reassure their patients.