I was struck by reports that hospitals are being forced to mothball beds due to a lack of staff and resources. Why, it only feels like yesterday we were being told that all our NHS problems were attributable to too many immigrants putting pressure on resources. Ergo, take back control, seal the borders, problem solved.
Whilst we are still some way away from being able to stop the free movement of EU nationals, the post-Brexit collapse in the value of the pound, combined with the virulent xenophobia expressed by various sections of the media and society seems to be doing the trick. As you can see from official government figures, EU migrant numbers have plummeted. Nigel Farage must be delighted. The UK has stepped back from the ‘breaking point’ precipice.
And yet I have to say, I’m not really seeing the feelgood factor. As this morning’s coverage seems to suggest, it’s the NHS that remains at breaking point.
Where are the headlines from grateful hospital patients saying ‘Thank God for Brexit. Now I no longer have to wait on a hospital trolley for twelve hours due to bed shortages’?
Where are the interviewees outside GP surgeries saying ‘Now that all the Romanian fruit pickers and Polish baristas have decided not to come to the UK, it’s much easier to get a doctor’s appointment.’
And has anyone heard from the relieved relative who says ‘Great news! Dad’s hip replacement operation has been brought forward.’
Of course, it’s a shame that a lot of those coming have included qualified medical professionals that the NHS so desperately needs to address its staffing woes.
But surely a sharp fall in the number of EU migrants would have a positive impact on the availability of school places, doctor’s appointments and hospital beds? This was one of the sacred cows of the Leave argument: reduce levels of net migration, free up resources for native Britons.
Unless, of course, the number of immigrants had nothing to do with the crisis in services like the NHS, and Conservative government austerity was the true cause of the decimation of the public sector.
Unless, of course, you desperately needed those migrants to provide and pay for (through their income tax) those services.
Unless, of course, your sacred cow is mad.