Smaller practices and health facilities in more rural areas could be disproportionately affected by more problematic recruitment from the EEA, post-Brexit, a new report has concluded.
A National Assembly for Wales briefing paper, How changes in the rural economy post-Brexit might impact upon healthcare/ health inequalities in rural Wales, says that the most significant impacts on access to facilities and healthcare are likely to come from the effect of the end of ‘Freedom of Movement’ and new immigration restrictions on recruitment.
Analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) estimates that at least 2.5 per cent of the NHS workforce in Wales is comprised by EEA nationals, including around 700 doctors. “There is anecdotal evidence of EEA recruitment being used to fill personnel gaps in parts of rural Wales,” the report states.
While recruitment from the ‘rest of the world’ could offset reduced recruitment from the EEA, there is likely to be stronger competition in this region from other parts of the UK.
As for increased investment in health services after Brexit – a key message of the Leave campaign – there are concerns that as a net recipient of EU funding, Wales may not fully recoup EU funding losses through additional post-Brexit resources.
Reduced availability of some imported medicines, increased costs of healthcare delivery and rationing are also possibilities.
According to the report, approximately one third of the Welsh population live in rural areas, including the vastly rural geography of mid-and north Wales and areas of the south Wales valleys. Relative to the rest of the UK, Wales has more older people and fewer people of working age as a proportion of the population with levels predicted to rise in the coming decade. This is particularly apparent in rural areas as a result of outmigration of youth in urban areas and the in-migration of retirees. Other challenges include: sparse geography, limited public transport and poverty.