'You cannot champion Brexit and the NHS' - Presenter's damning verdict on health minister

Richard Bacon and Matt Hancock debate the effects of Brexit on the NHS. Photograph: ITV.

Richard Bacon and Matt Hancock debate the effects of Brexit on the NHS. Photograph: ITV.

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Health minister Matt Hancock has been criticised by a television presenter for attempting to champion the NHS while also championing Brexit, which campaigners say will damage the health service.

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Richard Bacon, standing in for Piers Morgan on ITV's Good Morning Britain breakfast programme, explained how he had his “life saved by the NHS” just one year ago.

He told the minister: “I went back to the intensive care unit and I spoke to the staff that saved my life, a lot of them were from the European Union, and a lot of them were from outside the EU, and a lot of them were thinking of quitting and leaving this country and leaving the NHS because of Brexit.

“To me it seems a contradiction to be the minister at the top of the NHS and championing Brexit, which is clearly going to be damaging for the NHS.”

Unsurprisingly the health minister said that he didn't agree with the analysis.

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“There's more EU citizens working in the NHS today than there was on the referendum day, you said it yourself in the question, I'm really glad you got great treatment, and so many people get great treatment.

“It's true many people working in the NHS, the majority of course are Brits and many from EU countries, but there's lots from outside the EU as well.

“The point about delivering on the referendum result is, firstly, we live in a democracy so we follow the votes of people when give them a vote like we did with the referendum.

“But secondly, we will then control our own immigration system, and yes, we'll be able to get doctors and nurses from around the world to come and work for the NHS. That will be our choice - not imposed on us by membership of the European Union.

“So of course we've got to make sure we get the future rules right, but we've got to deliver on the referendum result so we can get on with talking about all these other things.”

Research from Best for Britain last year found that 26,000 EU nationals had left the NHS since 2016 which led to campaigners branding it a “Brexodus”.

A report by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also found that every form of Brexit damages the National Health Service.

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