Could Brexit present the NHS with a £3.4bn bill?

A photo of the European Health Insurance Card Will we get to keep our free EHIC healthcare after Brexit?

Brexit could cost the NHS up to £3.4bn, and leave us with up to 50,000 less nurses than we need, according to a new independent report. The Nuffield Trust, a health charity, looked at the possible outcomes of Brexit, both positive and negative.

A photo of the European Health Insurance Card

Will we get to keep our free EHIC healthcare after Brexit? Credit: Antoine Fleury-Gobert

They said Brexit might offer a chance for £100mn extra each week for the NHS using the money we currently send to Brussels. However, the Office of Budget Responsibility predicts leaving the EU will cost the UK enough in tax revenue to reduce the NHS budget by £2.4bn.


Will the NHS have enough staff to cope after Brexit?

The lack of a guarantee for NHS staff from the EU to remain in the UK may also cause problesm for the NHS. Modelling by the Health Service Journal predicts a shortfall in nurses in 2025/26 from a best case scenario of 20,000 to a worst case scenario of 50,000.

It’s not just nurses that could be in short supply, but social care workers too. The already stretched sector could be short 70,000 workers by 2025/26, according to the London School of Economics, unless the current EU migrants who take up care work are replaced.


Will Brits living in the EU have to return to the UK for healthcare?

Another area where the NHS could see a financial shock may come from overseas expats. Up to £1bn in extra spending may be required if the 190,000 pensioners living in the EU returning to use the NHS if their right free to healthcare in the EU is taken away in the Brexit negotiations.

Leaving the European Union could make it harder for privatisation to happen in the NHS. Currently EU law means all NHS contracts must be competitively tendered allowing private companies to take on public service. By leaving the EU, its possible NHS trusts could avoid this process if they wanted to.




At Trusted Medicine we are improving Public Health through education. We love what we do, but we need your help. Please share our work, help us reach more people.


Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.


  1. The Nuffield Trust: Getting a Brexit Deal that Works For The NHS
  2. Office of Budget Responsibility Fiscal Outlook March 2017
  3. Health Service Journal Brexit Modelling
  4. Skills for Care: The State of the Adult Social Care Workforce
  5. The King’s Fund – Procurement and Competition Rules

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: