We must not pull the plug on the NHS – the Single Market is its life support

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

It is often said that in the NHS, you are more likely to be treated by someone from the EU than you are to be sitting next to them.

Whilst this is currently the case, with almost 20 percent of doctors in the Welsh NHS coming from the European Union, it will not be like this for much longer.

Since the vote to leave the European Union and the triggering of Article 50 by the UK Government, 45% of EU doctors in Wales have said they are considering leaving the UK, and 12% have already made firm plans to leave.

We have not left yet, but the uncertainty caused by Brexit, coupled with the poor planning of the Labour Welsh Government and the failure to properly fund the health service by the Tories in Westminster has led to Wales becoming one of the European countries with the fewest number of doctors per head.

Risk

By being a member of the European Single Market, EU doctors and nurses can come to live and work in Wales freely, looking after our sick and our old, and, most importantly, making our country their home.

If the UK Government negligently, irresponsibly and recklessly revokes our membership of this highly beneficial union, we will lose the ability to attract doctors and nurses that our NHS so desperately needs.

Leaving the Single Market threatens to turn our NHS staffing crisis into a catastrophe. Yet, the UK Government are putting the ideology of their boorish, blundering Brexiteers ahead of the health and well-being of our people, and the Labour Party are doing absolutely nothing to stop them.

In Wales, we have been warned that if we leave the Single Market, we not only risk losing our EU doctors back to the EU, but also to London.

Hospitals in London and the South East, which are more affluent than ours in Wales, would be in a position to offer more money to EU doctors already in the UK to plug their staffing gaps. This risks draining Wales of our desperately-needed doctors.

Choice

It does not have to be like this.

If we remain in the EU Single Market, as Plaid Cymru has consistently been calling for, we will continue to have a flow of doctors and nurses coming to work in our NHS, feeling confident about their future in our country.

Not only this, but remaining in the European Single Market removes the unnecessary and highly dangerous risk of withdrawing from the EU Medicines Agency, which would cut the UK off from the market we rely on for medicines and vital supplies.

The NHS is operating at full capacity. It does not have the breathing space to cope with the unprecedented upheaval that Brexit presents.

We have two options: we can take the ever-increasing risks, leave the European Union and bear the all-encompassing costs of this, or we can remain in the Single Market, continue to enjoy the economic and social benefits of this and retain the stability and growth that are fundamental to our crucial public services like the NHS.

I know which option I choose. The Tories and Labour must now make their choice.

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