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What does Brexit mean for the GP Practice?

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We’ve had mass demonstrations, online polls demanding a second referendum, a rise in race-related crime, ageism arguments and resignations in the upper echelons of the political elite. The stock market tumbled then rebounded and Sterling is at a 31-year low against the US Dollar (good for exports, not so good for foreign holidays). There has been no need for an emergency budget, the Bank of England has discovered £250 billion hidden under its bed to prop up the economy should it need it and it’s been decided there might not be £350 million extra NHS spending each week after all. Oh, and Wimbledon had a middle Sunday because of the unprecedented level of rainfall.

It’s certainly been a busy few weeks since the UK voted leave the European Union.

The question is:

“What does being out of the EU really mean for the GP practice?”

For all the headlines and debate since the EU Referendum, what is becoming clear to all is that, in the short term at least, little is about to change. In the longer term, the NHS is likely to be consumed by discussions and fights for funding (just as it is today) and the pressure to increase the quality of care (just as it is today). However, there is at least one pressing issue that practice managers, and managers across the NHS, must address.

The need to reassure affected staff

A good deal of the debate since the vote has concentrated on the effect of Brexit on EU citizens resident in the UK.

According to one poll, the majority of practice managers voted for Brexit, undoubtedly swayed by the extra strain on services caused by immigration. It’s not surprising then that with so many EU citizens employed within the healthcare industry, NHS and GP practices in the UK, one of the immediate (and as yet unreported) effects among staff, could be a drop in morale. Uncertainty of the future leads to fear of position and a reduction in effectiveness at work. It’s important, therefore, that practice managers do whatever they can to reassure all staff of continuity, support and the value of the individual in the practice.

There are a whole range of laws that protect EU citizens living and working in the UK. These include:

- Article 70 of the Vienna Convention

- The Hague Convention

- Article 19 of the EU Fundamental Rights

But informing your staff of these is unlikely to quell their concerns. You can tell them that only a change in UK law will affect their position – “but isn’t that what Brexit voted for?” will be their question back to you.

Make sure every member of your staff knows that their contribution is valued. Recognise their efforts and enable them to understand they are an integral part of your practice; that they are valued by you, their colleagues and the patients they serve every day. This will do more than any explanation of law to quell their concerns.

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Show me the money… but when?

Until Brexit has been negotiated through Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, then the UK must continue to observe all EU laws and contribute to its budget as it always has. In the short-term at least, this means no extra funding for the NHS.

There will still be a fight for funding at all levels, and it might be that in the short-term funding levels fall.

In the longer-term they might rise. But with an overall deficit and national debt mounting each year – combined with George Osborne’s abandonment of the target to restore a surplus by 2020 – it is probable that money will continue to be tight. It would appear that no-one knows. So, when it comes to money and extra funding, “watch this space” has to be the tactic employed.

The need for quality remains

One thing I believe we can definitely say is that the Brexit vote will make no difference in the way that the CQC carries out its inspections. The GP practice will still be subject to review; doctors, staff, processes and procedures will still be examined.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, despite the extra workload it places on all in a GP practice. After all, the focus of everyone in every practice I have visited, and of all of us here at eSupplies, is to ensure that the very best quality of care and treatment is given to all users of services – no matter creed, colour, race, religion, or political persuasion.

And no amount of Brexit will ever change that singular objective.

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If you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me -alex.henman@esuppliesmedical.co.uk - 01865 261451

eSupplies Medical is a trading name of Williams Medical Supplies Ltd, a DCC business