What happened to sending £350million a week to the NHS?


It’s been seven weeks since the British public were visiting polling stations to make the biggest vote of their lifetime. Seven weeks since naïve Brexit supporters believed that £350 million a week would be spent on the NHS if their vote won.

I’m from a small market town in Lincolnshire, where 59.9% of the population voted to leave the EU in order to ‘take back control of our country’ and yesterday (Wednesday) it was announced that, as of next week, our A&E department will no longer be open 24 hours a day. Instead, the residents of Grantham, as well as surrounding towns and villages, will now have to travel approximately 30 miles to Boston, Nottingham or Lincoln if they are in need of medical care at night.

The reasoning behind this is due to the hospital being understaffed, yet the United Kingdom has just voted to potentially stop EU workers – who make up 5% of our NHS and 10% of our doctors – to enter our country without needing a visa. It really seems worth it now.

During the referendum, I was inundated with messages from Vote Leave supporters saying that they were sick of going to the doctor and struggling to say their European doctor’s name, but, personally, I’m struggling to see the benefit of fewer foreign doctors and shorter hospital opening hours. 29,000 people visit Grantham Hospital’s A&E department every year, equating to 80 people a day. How can risking these people’s lives be in anyway acceptable?

Although I’m aware that this isn’t a direct consequence of Brexit and that Article 50 is yet to be triggered, this is surely suggesting that we – and that NHS – now need the EU more than ever. As much as I disagree with and am incredibly upset by the closure of Grantham’s 24 hour A&E service, I hope that this may well be a wakeup call to politicians and negotiators, so that we can keep free movement of labour.

We are not British, we are human – and it does not matter which other human provides us with care and treatment in our times of need.

* Anna Pitcher has recently finished her studies in German and Economics at the University of Sheffield. She is a member of the Liberal Democrats.

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  • This isn’t even indirectly caused by Brexit, never mind directly

    The £350 million wasn’t a promise, it was a possibility. We weren’t electing a government

    Theresa May never promised it, why would she deliver it?

    Even if it were going to happen, it obviously wouldn’t happen until we’d left the EU

    I support free movement of Labour, but this article is utterly hysterical.

  • @ Iain Your comment………………………..” is utterly hysterical”.

  • Iain: “The £350 million wasn’t a promise”.

    The leaflets the Leave campaign sent via freepost to every house in the country sure implied it was. As we Lib Dems know full well, if you make a promise that you’ll do something if you win, a failure to keep that promise if you win will be seen as a massive betrayal.

    Boris’s bill is coming up to £2.5bn. Tick tock, tick tock.

  • Anna Pitcher 13th Aug '16 - 8:56pm

    Iain – I’m aware that this isn’t down to Brexit, if you read what I’d wrote that it was a strong Brexit supporting town who have been suffered from the lies presented by the vote leave party.

  • Phil Beesley 13th Aug '16 - 9:16pm

    Definitions and all that… I’m a bit shocked — perhaps I have lived in cities too long — that any hospital has a part time A&E department. It contradicts my understanding of accidents and emergencies.

    The belief in £350 million “for the NHS” (or say £180 million for public services when fact corrected) was one of the things that separated leavers and remainers. If the money turns out to exist, we’ll see it a couple of years after we have left the EU. With the exception of forensic accountants, few of us will notice.

  • John Peters 13th Aug '16 - 9:41pm

    Perhaps the Liberal Democrats should split?

    Those who believed the Remain lies could be Liberals.

    Those who believed the Leave lies could be Democrats.

  • Doctors and nurses are already visa free occupations. Brexit would change nothing.

  • ‘Seven weeks since naïve Brexit supporters believed that £350 million a week would be spent on the NHS if their vote won.’

    Evidence or just your personal opinion ?

    Do you really think they expected it to happen before we left the EU,that wasn’t what the Brexiters in the recent SKY Sunderland expected ?

  • The £350 million was a lie ….. as was the talk about Turkey. It did impact, i spoke to many people at the time who believed these lies. I talked the other day with someone who works in the NHS, they asked (in ironic way) when would their Trust be getting its share of the £350 million!! I have been in Turkey since the Brexit vote, people there very upset at the way they had been portrayed.

  • Iain 13th Aug ’16 – 7:04pm……….This isn’t even indirectly caused by Brexit, never mind directly………
    The author never said it was caused by Brexit; just that those who voted ‘Leave’ expected the NHS to receive a massive cash injection to prevent such closures…

    As for “The £350 million wasn’t a promise, it was a possibility”??????……..The slogan on the bus never mentioned the word ‘possibility’….

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Aug '16 - 8:52am

    Jeremy’s privatisation project continues to go well.

  • Brian Fairchild 14th Aug '16 - 8:55am

    Perhaps if the European out of hours GP had been able to understand English he would not have prescribed an antibiotic to a patient with highly volatile aps my wife would not be in a wheelchair now.perhaps if the overseas Doctor who overdosed my wife with anticoagulant when recovering from the stroke the last Doctor caused I may be more in favour of the amount of Doctors in the NHS With limited English. Perhaps if you spent time as a weekend patient at my local hospital you may be more concerned about the appalling levels of care in the 5 day week culture of the NHS. The issue is not Brexit but simply are we prepared to pay higher taxes for a decent health service and are we prepared to tackle the huge inefficiencies in the NHS.

  • Trevor Peel 14th Aug '16 - 9:56am

    Jamesg “Doctors and nurses are already visa free occupations. Brexit would change nothing”, (13/8/16) – you are wrong – I wonder where you got this information from?.

  • There is a case for centralising A&E but we should be asking loudly where IS the £350 million?

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Aug '16 - 10:29am

    @ Jenny Barnes,
    Very well indeed.

    The growing chaos caused by the Health and Social Care Bill was a clever move. Destroy something that had high satisfaction ratings, and then people will question its value and whether it can be sustained in its current form. Move in the private sector to save it.

    Sorry to be cynical, but what has happened to the NHS since 2010 is heartbreaking and predictable given that the tories had been planning it for years. The post code lottery and rationing, the blame, which can now be heaped upon Clinical Commissioning Groups, rather than the Government who sought to distance themselves from responsibility is beyond distressing.

  • Meg Thomas 14th Aug ’16 – 10:23am…………..we should be asking loudly where IS the £350 million?……….

    We WERE told….Within days of the vote Farage, Gove, IDS, Johnson, etc. had denied that there had ever been such a promise….The photos of those ‘stalwarts’ standing in front of placards promising, “Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week” were just a figment of our imagination…..just ask Iain (post 1)

  • @expats

    Nobody’s saying it’s a figment of your imagination.

    It’s probably best to offer proof though as there will always be doubters.

    To be on the safe side It’s easy for you to disprove, just post a link to stalwart Farage holding the placard or standing in front of the bus.

  • Peter Parsons 14th Aug '16 - 11:32am

    If anyone wants proof, here’s a photo of Priti Patel in front of the wording in question:


    Looks a lot like a promise to me.

  • Personally. I saw it as more of a rhetorical claim than a promise because to deliver on it would require the government to act. This was not an election. It was a referendum. No one is in a position of power to deliver. According to the leader of Remain he was not going to stand down even if he lost the referendum. Prime Minister David Cameron was entirely in control of his own actions and thus clearly did pull a fast one on the British public. Also compare and contrast the NHS claim with Osborne’s promise to reduce borrowing or May’s claim she could reduce immigration. ! Unlike anyone in Brexit these stretchers of the actuality were in very real positions of power

  • Rightsaidfredfan 14th Aug '16 - 12:43pm

    Vote leave had nothing to do with Farage, he never promised £350 million extra a week for the NHS. Even if he had only a complete moron would have expected UKIP to deliver it. Because how exactly would he do that? Nigel farage isn’t even an MP, UKIP had 1 seat in parliament, they simply could not promise or commit to any levels of government spending, only George Osborne and David Cameron could have done that and they were both for remain.

    This campaign was no different to others in that both sides made far fetched claims and the otherside debunked their opponents claims. The remain campaign thoroughly debunked 350 million before the vote. It was completely clear that 350 million was gross contributions that did not include the money we get back either in rebates, cost savings or the economic boost that came from access to the single market, remain repeatedly pointed those facts out. Likewise when remain made a far fetched claim about war in Europe being more likely if we left leave pointed out that NATO not the EU had kept the peace so nobody expected WWIII either.

    My point is that nobody will get blaimed for an extra 350 million a week not being spent on the NHS as almost nobody ever believed that it would be.

    People did however believe that voting leave would reduce immigration from the EU, so if EU immigration is not reduced i expect Teresa May’s Brexit government to be punished for that.

    @Sarah Noble: this is why the lib dems were punished so harshly over tuition fees. Because 1. The lib dems clearly had the power to keep that promise to vote against any rise in fees and choose not to and 2. People actually voted lib dem in 2010 because of that promise believing that they meant it.

    But almost nobody voted to leave because they believed that doing so would result in an increased spending of 350 million a week on the NHS. The electorate simply aren’t that dumb.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '16 - 12:55pm

    “The £350 million was a lie ….. as was the talk about Turkey.” This will be one of the great ‘What if’ factors of history. The UKIP arguments that Turkey would provide large numbers of (legal) immigrants was never valid. David Cameron was embarrassed because Turkey is a NATO partner and because of things he had said in the past, but Turkey was nowhere near complying with the EU’s conditions of entry. Perhaps Turkey’s current (AK) President hoped to negotiate different conditions. It is unlikely that a referendum in the UK substantially affected events in Turkey, but the timing is relevant. We always knew that Austria would be likely to veto Turkish membership of the EU if full membership seemed likely or imminent but were too polite to say so. Since the coup the Austrian foreign minister has said so.
    Although Cyprus is empowered to veto Turkish entry we should not assume that they would. Cynical UKIPers argued that Cyprus would be bought off, which is simplistic and unworthy. Cypriots have a memory of the island being invaded and of people fleeing armed force. They also know that their are a substantial number of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus, withdrawal of which would probably require a stable and confident government in Turkey.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '16 - 12:57pm

    “Vote leave had nothing to do with Farage” Farage said he would support Vote Leave after they won the official designation.

  • Stevan Rose 14th Aug '16 - 1:09pm

    As Anna points out, there is no direct connection between this NHS decision and the Brexit vote. There’s no indirect connection either so I’m not sure why the article includes both points if there’s no intention to connect.

    Anyway since the £350m was not a Government promise and the new PM was on the Remain side denying the existence of the £350m let alone giving any commitment to NHS spending, you can hardly hold her to it. Any more than you can hold her to a punishment emergency budget promised by her side if Brexit won.

    We haven’t even begun to leave so free movement is in place still. So Brexit is not impeding recruitment. There’s a real probability some measure of free movement will remain and even if not, if there’s a shortage of healthcare professionals they would easily meet any points system. In pre-EU days there were massive immigration programmes to bring nurses into the UK. A significant number of healthcare workers already come from outside the EU. In or out has marginal if any impact on NHS recruitment.

    I totally agree that 24 hour emergency care is absolutely essential and deplore the withdrawal of such services. It’s an entirely different matter to the Brexit claims and current recruitment options though. Trying to make such connections when they don’t exist is the sort of thing that would make my vote for Remain in a re-run quite uncertain.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 14th Aug '16 - 2:04pm

    I voted for Brexit and am delighted with how things are progressing so far. The government seem committed to implementing the democratic will of the people and getting us out sooner rather than later.

    I believe that a re-run in 5 years time would produce a far, far greater victory for staying out as being out would be the status quo then which always matters in referendums, and re-joining would mean joining the euro, Schengen, comitting to ever closer union and having no rebate.

    I don’t believe all 27 members would agree to us rejoining without the uk first holding a referendum and getting a solid join vote. Because parliament rejoining when the majority of the population are against it could lead to a 2nd Brexit and more uncertainty and this would benefit nobody.

    I really believe that is the reality of the situation and the lib dems as a party would do well to accept that. Ignoring the result or having the MPs overturn the result after we are out isn’t serious politics. They are in danger of losing all their seats in 2020 if they continue on that route. They might pick up a couple of points nationally with a pledge to ignore the people and re-join, but to actually keep their seats would require more votes than any other party in those areas and I don’t believe a party with a policy like that could get more votes than one of the other two parties anywhere except Orkney.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Aug '16 - 3:49pm

    @ Anna,
    In the last five years, a third of all A and E doctors have moved abroad. Half of all trainee A and E doctors are abandoning the speciality within 4 years because the pressures are becoming intolerable.

    Anecdotally, I know of no-one who would wish their children to choose a career in medicine. Indeed just about everyone I know has taken early retirement or would do if circumstances allowed. The rest are voting with their feet.

    This year for the first time, places for entry into medical schools have been put into clearing, but It will take years to educate and train an increase in medical students. Thankfully, we have doctors from the old commonwealth who are still willing to come here, despite this being made more difficult for them.

    I share your concern about the closure or reduction in A and services, but we are seeing the dismantling of important services across the board.

    One only has to look at privatisation policy papers such as , ‘After the NHS’, by Arthur , Seldon , privatisation policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher.
    ‘Britain’s Biggest Enterprise : Ideas for Reform’, Oliver Letwin and John Redwood.

    Quite frankly, Margaret Thatcher would never have dared to do to out NHS what has been done to it since 2010.

    I voted ‘Remain’, but a focus on whether the NHS claim was a lie or not is just a red herring as far as the provision of services is concerned. One only had to read past comments attributed to Oliver Letwin at meetings ( denied by Letwin), to know that the NHS as we knew it would be gone if the tories ever came back to power and started to implement their plans.

    My main concern as far as membership of the EU is concerned, relates to the effect on future medical research.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Aug '16 - 4:50pm

    The NHS claim was utter tripe by people who would not know what to do about the NHS if they even , perish the thought , got to be anywhere near running it !

    We need massive investment at every level , going into the front line , not just into salary increases , not the issue it was , but the recipient of much of the New Labour years money.

    We need massive programmes of training of our own specialists , a far greater need than nurses and doctors , we lack them compared to anything else.

    We need to take the ideology out of this once and for all, a criticism of the right and left , we cannot have the best of anything without the state as the main power broker , funder and organiser , we can and could yet , have the worst of everything ,without the presence of private sector , particularly the not for profit element , fully involved and the flexibility to bring in all the talents .

    The right wing ideologues are a negative pull in the direction , not so much of the so called marketisation of the NHS, as its disorientation , and given the chance , disintegration!

    The left , and particularly under the ridiculous direction of its frenetic competition to out Bevan each other with the spectacle of the leadership election, do not understand anything at all re modern health effectiveness of delivery, patient involvement , or value for money with quality of delivery.

    Only the radical centre and mainstream centre left can deliver both the economy we need to pay for this and the fluidity we need to do it !

    That means we need to raise our game , and some !

  • Rightsaidfredfan 14th Aug ’16 – 12:43pm……………..But almost nobody voted to leave because they believed that doing so would result in an increased spending of 350 million a week on the NHS. The electorate simply aren’t that dumb…….

    Really? As I’ve posted before, my neighbour thought so and voted out…several other members have also posted of friends relations who believed the promise…Perhaps we just know a lot of ‘dummies’?

    As for “Vote leave had nothing to do with Farage, he never promised £350 million extra a week for the NHS. Even if he had only a complete moron would have expected UKIP to deliver it. Because how exactly would he do that? Nigel farage isn’t even an MP, UKIP had 1 seat in parliament, they simply could not promise or commit to any levels of government spending, only George Osborne and David Cameron could have done that and they were both for remain.”….

    What sort of an argument is that? We have only 8 MPs and yet we promise policies…Farage was, with Johnson, the leading voice for what wonders could be achieved post ‘Brexit’…The fear of UKIP was the reason that Cameron was forced to promise a referendum. The idea that “Vote leave had nothing to do with Farage” is risible in the extreme….

  • Margaret A. Rutter 14th Aug '16 - 7:21pm

    To my mind we are all missing the point. That is, that all three major parties were out of touch with the voter. Had we been in touch with them and addressed their issues over the EU we as a party would be in a far stronger position to win the 2020 General Election

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Aug '16 - 8:02pm

    @ expats.
    I agree up to a point expats, but in my view, Cameron was more frightened of the right wing of his own party than Farage. Once the campaign had begun, I think that the person who had most sway and clout in the Leave campaign was Boris Johnson.

    As far as lies are concerned, before the 2010 election, Cameron promised no more pointless top down reorganisations of the NHS, when he knew full well that plans had been made by his former boss Andrew Lansley for the biggest reorganisation of the NHS in its history.

    The EU referendum was a classic case of putting party before country. A referendum was supposed to heal a running sore and bitter division in the conservative party once and for all. It would have caused even more bitterness and division if he had challenged the claims of Johnson and other brexiteers from his own party. This was a conservative v conservative problem.

    When politicians like Cameron are guilty of massively misleading the electorate, they should not be surprised when the electorate are duped into believing someone else’s lies rather than their own.

    Its a bit rich of them to cry foul.

  • Trevor Peel
    Well they were visa-free the last time I looked. However I see they are now in the Tier 2 shortage list which is an easy-visa category subject to a quota limit: No doubt one of Theresa Mays ideas. However, there is zero likelihood of EU doctors and nurses being told to leave and minimal impediment for new doctors and nurses from the EU. We all know that!!!! Even the Ukip manifesto said that they wanted skilled, required workers and points limits were only to be placed on the unskilled, unnecessary workers.

    Incidentally we are replacing doctors in A&E with something called ‘clinical practitioners’ now. The idea being that 80% of A&E stuff is routine, not requiring an MD. Hence the doctor shortage is being somewhat addressed.

    As for the 350 million. I saw it as obviously a minor tit-for-tat reaction to the incessant lie machine of the Leave campaigns ‘project fear’ and I was assuming other intelligent people managed to grasp that too. Likewise nobody except someone so moronic that they’d be incapable of watching TV or reading in the first place could imagine it would go exclusively on the NHS.

    The article is alarmist nonsense from start to finish. Like too many here!

  • Rightsaidfredfan 15th Aug '16 - 7:29am

    @Expats “What sort of an argument is that? We have only 8 MPs and yet we promise policies…”. That’s exactly my point, you promise things but now the party only have 8 MPs the electorate will not expect the party to actually deliver on them, so you can promise what you like and it will make no difference. Credibility and trust is the hardest thing to build and the most valuable currency in politics.

    This is why the pledge was so devastating and hit the party so much harder than just another broken manifesto promise. People believed it. People actually expected that if they voted lib dem and got a lib dem MP then their MP could be absolutely counted on to vote against any rise in tuition fees.

    What percentage of voters expected Farage to be in government spending an extra 350 million a week on the NHS? Maybe 1%

    Sure, 1 percent of voters might feel a sense of shock and betrayal when their expected outcome of 350 million a week on the NHS didn’t materialise. The other 99 percent however saw it for the nonsense it was and never expected that to happen, especially when you consider that remain completely debunked that nonsense at the time. Alan Johnstone and others called it out on national tv for the rubbish it was.

  • Jayne,
    I believe we are in agreement…It was the fear of of UKIP in marginal Tory seats, especially those of the Right, that worried them; a split Tory vote was their nightmare scenario….
    In my area (Notts) Ukip were the main threat to Labour and I had heated discussions with those who felt that the slogan ‘We want our country back’ was enough of a post EU policy..
    As for pre-2010 promises…Let’s try and expunge our 2010-15 history and start afresh by building a ‘bottom up’ resurgence…

  • Anna Pitcher 15th Aug '16 - 10:29am

    JamesG: I just want to point out that the reason I wrote this piece was because, when discussing the referendum with people from my hometown, a lot of people believed the 350million lie. I, for one, didn’t believe it (nor did I vote to leave the EU!), but a lot of people from Grantham DID vote to leave the EU on the grounds of having more spent on our hospital which is getting smaller and smaller by the minute. The people of Grantham have lost out massively, and I think that that’s a shame. I’m really sorry that you thought it was ‘alarmist nonsense’ – my point was actually to alert people to the problems that our hospital is facing. I actually thought it was quite relevant that a lot of people have recently voted for something in the belief that the NHS in general would get a lot more funding and that a town that voted so strongly for this, has actually lost one of the most vital aspects of their local hospital. I’m sure you would feel the same anger if your closest A&E department was an hours drive away.

  • The problems of the NHS like all the public services, are more to do with the lack of resources such as suitably trained people. Demands for improved rail services cannot be met because Network Rail cannot cope with the necessary workload. I wonder how they will manage to build HS2 ?

  • Maybe I am very lucky but I have no complaints about the NHS. I had to go to a hospital for some tests recently and for the first one I was seen immediately as there was no one waiting and for the second I only waited a short while. Likewise my GP appointment was the same day. I was also very impressed with the treatment of a friend who had a heart attack – the ambulance came quickly and the staff were wonderful.

  • The Leave campaign did sometimes use language that suggested they were promising to do this, but of course they were never in a position to make any promises at all since they were not putting themselves forward for office. The lack of a proper Tory leadership election, with the “men in grey suits” installing a non-Leave leader, ensured there was no possibility of this happening anyway.

    Foreign doctors and nurses of course do a valuable job and the NHS would be in dire straits if they all left tomorrow. But articles like this one invariably seem to start from the unquestioned premise that the UK should be a net importer of medical staff. Why? As a rich country with a good education system, surely we ought to be aiming to train enough doctors and nurses to meet our own needs, and indeed to meet some of the needs of less fortunate countries, instead of (as we do now) bringing in many of the brightest and best from countries which have far fewer resources than we do.

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '16 - 2:04pm

    “Although I’m aware that this isn’t a direct consequence of Brexit ..”
    Of course it isn’t.
    But we are in the EU, have been for a long time, so the fact that your A&E department will no longer be open 24 hours a day could be a direct consequence of being in the EU.

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '16 - 2:06pm

    “Although I’m aware that this isn’t a direct consequence of Brexit ..”
    (are you trying to insinuate that it might be an indirect consequence of Brexit?)

  • Anna Pitcher 15th Aug '16 - 3:01pm

    Stuart: I completely agree. If you read through the comments, there’s one above saying that there’s clearing spaces for medics this year…! (Although I’m curious which universities, as I had a quick search on UCAS and couldn’t find anything). I know quite a few junior doctors and medical students and not many of them are that interested in remaining in the UK anymore, and I completely understand why too with Jeremy Hunt behaving the way he is!

  • Jayne Mansfield 15th Aug '16 - 3:31pm

    @ Anna,
    The newspapers have now picked up on the fact that there are places in clearing for medical students.

    The Independent online 2 hours ago_
    ‘You can get onto a medicine degree course through clearing because nobody want to be a junior doctor, and I know why’

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '16 - 4:46pm

    @Anna Pitcher “If you read through the comments, there’s one above saying that there’s clearing spaces for medics this year…! (Although I’m curious which universities, as I had a quick search on UCAS and couldn’t find anything)”
    St. George’s: http://www.sgul.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/clearing

  • Even Vince Cable now accepts that immigration to the UK has to be controlled.

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