After several prominent individuals involved in the Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Union suggested that the NHS would benefit from such a political move, four former Labour health secretaries have strongly opposed to this assertion.
The secretaries in question went as far to describe the opinion of such individuals as Michael Gove as a “dangerous lie”.
Alan Milburn, Patricia Hewitt, Andy Burnham and Alan Johnson believe that leaving the EU would risk “frightening consequences for staffing, waiting times and levels of service care”.
A statement released by the left-leaning individuals is indicative of the status of the NHS as a key battleground in the ongoing debate on the European Union.
Their views are also concurrent with the warning by Jeremy Hunt, the current health secretary, that a vote to leave would put NHS funding at risk.
Campaigners in favour of Brexit argue that Britain leaving of the European Union would ultimately secure the future of the health service, firstly, by reducing the burden of immigration from Europe, and secondly, by eliminating payments which Britain makes as part of its ongoing membership of the political union.
Priti Patel, the employment minister, has warned the health service is under threat because of the UK’s membership of the European ‘superstate’.
“We will be talking a lot about the NHS in this campaign because we believe that a leave vote is vital if we are to protect the NHS for future generations. Current levels of migration are causing unsustainable pressures on our public services and we can see that the NHS is creaking under the strain.”
And the former health secretaries believe that this document is wrong-minded, and instead indicated that in their opinion the opposite financial position is accurate.
“There is a dangerous lie being propagated by those wanting to leave the EU that they will protect the NHS. The opposite is true. These are the same people who have campaigned for increased NHS charging, increased privatisation and cuts to spending. People should not trust their motives or their maths.”
Far from it reducing the amount of funding available to the NHS, the Labour politicians instead believe that leaving the political union would result in less money being available for the health service.
“Independent experts have repeatedly shown that leaving will seriously damage our economy with some suggesting Britain would enter recession. That means reduced funding for public services – strangling NHS finances, with potentially frightening consequences for staffing, waiting times and levels of service care.”
And the four secretaries ultimately paint a rather alarming picture of the potential damage caused by leaving the European Union.
“The economic damage wreaked by leaving Europe will have devastating knock-on effects, including in the health service. Given the millions of lives who depend on our NHS, it is a risk we simply cannot afford to take.”
Opinion polls indicate that the British public is very much torn on the notion of a Brexit, with a similar percentage of people indicating that they will vote both for and against the prospect of leaving the European Union.