How we organise our health service, and how we pay for it, is a matter for our own government. But the NHS and the health of British citizens benefit from being part of the EU.
Our health services, health research collaborations and public health protection are more robust within the EU. Leaving would damage the progress we have made together. Brexit should carry a health warning.
The National Health Service
In a letter to the Times on 4 April 2016, health professionals and researchers spoke of the benefits of continued EU membership to the NHS.
Most importantly, they debunked the myth that EU trade deals will jeopardise the NHS. In fact, EU law makes it clear that EU countries have the right to run nationalised public services, and no EU rules can change this.
In terms of staffing, with tens of thousands of nursing and doctor posts vacant, we cannot afford to risk losing the nurses and doctors from other EU countries that work here.
Participation in EU research schemes allows collaboration that is fundamental for research. For example, in the case of rare cancers, it’s often necessary to recruit patients from multiple countries in order to conduct trials with enough participants.
It also means value for money: joint research avoids duplication and gains economies of scale. Spending through our shared budget at EU level saves money at national level. British universities receive the biggest share of EU research funding, sharing in 15% of all projects under the £57bn Horizon 2020 programme.
Emergency healthcare abroad
A mutual agreement between EU countries means that British citizens are entitled to emergency medical treatment when travelling in Europe.
If Britain were to leave the EU, UK nationals would no longer be entitled to free emergency healthcare abroad, leaving travellers and holidaymakers £773m a year worse off. Britain Stronger in Europe calculates that the average British citizen claiming abroad received £6200 worth of free healthcare — something we could find ourselves paying for if the UK were not part of the EU.