What would happen without the NHS

No deal Brexit? This scenario makes NHS employees shudder

The fifth round of negotiations in Brexit poker between Great Britain and the EU has ended with no notable results.

Another week of lost time, another step towards an uncertain future for everyone involved. And as if British Prime Minister Theresa May had already seen all of this coming, she warned of a "no deal scenario" right at the beginning of this round in the British House of Commons. One will prepare for it, assured the head of government, who seems more ailing and insecure every day.

But how do you prepare for something that you don't know what it looks like? Neither here in London, nor in Brussels or Berlin, can anyone say what would happen in practice if Great Britain and the EU split up in March 2019 without having agreed on how to deal with this divorce of the century.

40 percent are non-British

The Brexit blog of the "Ärzte Zeitung"

» For over 20 years reports Arndt Striegler for the "Ärzte Zeitung" from Great Britain. He feels the upheaval caused by Brexit firsthand - for example as a patient in the NHS health service.

» The experimental set-up is unique: A health system shaped by globalization is to be renationalized. This thwarted the life plans of doctors and nurses from abroad.

» On a weekly basis blogger Arndt Striegler, who has lived on the island for 31 years, describes the political and cultural consequences of Brexit from now on.

» Also read:Boris Johnson's lucky bag

Now, dear reader, you will perhaps ask what all this has to do with the health system and with it the "Ärzte Zeitung"? A lot when talking to doctors, nurses and clinic managers in London and elsewhere in the UK these days. They all expected more from the latest round of negotiations.

Because without EU membership and thus the free movement of people and goods between the continent and the island kingdom, neither the British clinics nor the general practitioners' practices of the National Health Service (NHS) would function.

For example, at my local clinic in London, almost 40 percent of the workforce is non-British. And in my family doctor's practice, which I have been visiting regularly for more than 20 years, neither the reception (Portuguese) nor the practice management (Polish) would work so well. In other words: The British healthcare system needs qualified workers from the EU, not least qualified doctors from Germany.

A London clinic doctor I know recently summed it up as follows: "If we leave the EU in March 2019 without having found a generous immigration rule, then half of all hospitals in this country can close." Now this may be a little too pessimistic, especially since the London Ministry of Health recently reassured me that Brexit would "change but not endanger" medical care in the UK. Hmmm, I remain skeptical.

It is clear that many doctors, nurses, practice staff and other professions that are somehow related to health are slowly getting cold feet and in droves either say goodbye straight away, or at least put a plan B in the drawer for the case of Theresa May cited no-deal scenarios.

This is bad for work ethic and productivity, and it comes at a time when the London Department of Health is warning of an impending supply shortage in the face of the coming winter. The last thing UK clinics and practices need now is resignations from employees who find life in the UK too precarious in uncertain times.

The problem with British leaflets

The diversity of the effects of Brexit on the healthcare industry is only slowly becoming clear: representatives of the British biotech industry recently met with EU representatives to talk about a minor aspect of Brexit that has so far been neglected: package inserts. Package inserts for some "Made in Great Britain" medicines that are exported to Cyprus, Malta and Ireland are currently in English. After leaving the EU, these package inserts, like many other pharmaceuticals manufactured in the UK and intended for the EU internal market, would no longer be legally compliant.

Time is precious - and it is getting scarcer

Small countries like Malta and Cyprus in particular fear that manufacturers will initially concentrate on large markets such as Germany and France when it comes to sorting out the mess caused by Brexit. Some experts say this could lead to supply shortages in countries like Ireland, Malta or Cyprus.

To cut a long story short, both the pharmaceutical industry and everyone in the UK healthcare sector urgently want more clarity on how the future outside the EU is envisioned on Downing Street. Hopefully more will come out of the next round of negotiations between London and Brussels. Because time is precious in this case - and it is slowly becoming scarce.