Brexit has already dealt a brutal blow to one of the most cosmopolitan of UK workforces, and its human cost is blindingly obvious to anyone actually working in healthcareby Rachel Clarke / August 28, 2018 / Leave a comment
The morning after the Brexit referendum, I met my Italian consultant on the steps of our hospital. Her face twisted a little and her eyes dropped to the floor. When I rushed to embrace her, she started to cry.
It would be easy to dismiss this as emotional melodrama. After all, what had changed in her NHS contract? We had saved lives together, lost patients together, run cardiac arrests, sought to comfort grieving families—and surely could continue to do so. So why start weeping as though the world had ended?
Well, as of that morning, while one of us remained fully entitled to be a doctor in the NHS, the other feared being stripped of her right to live and work here. Worse, she was left feeling fundamentally unwelcome and unwanted by the country she now called home.
As if to prove her distress was not unfounded, the next day another colleague, a Polish optometrist, was subjected to a racist diatribe while working at a Saturday morning NHS clinic.
“Why don’t you f*** off back to where you belong?” began the abuse from a patient’s skin-head relative, as children in the waiting room looked on. Later, we would learn that a nationwide spike in hate crime was reported after the referendum, with the police documenting a 57 per cent increase in its immediate aftermath.
As we lurch towards March 29th next year—the date when the UK is set to leave the EU—the debate surrounding Brexit has never been more shrill or ugly. Nor, some might argue, less connected to reality.
Last week, for example, Nigel Farage announced his “return” to UK politics by claiming that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, “would like the IRA to become active again,” while accusing the former French foreign minister of “almost encouraging Republican terrorism.”
All this while accusing others, NHS doctors included, of cynically deploying “Project Fear”; of scaremongering the public into unfounded panic over Brexit.
It’s not about scaremongering
In general, as a doctor, I am all in favour of sober and dispassionate appraisal of risk. Indeed, the principle of informed consent, so central to medicine, hinges on a doctor sharing with their patients accurate, evidence-based information about the pros and cons…