No deal Brexit could have a dire impact on the elderly

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Age Scotland says that crashing out of the EU could have a serious impact on Scotland’s oldest and most vulnerable people

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5th September 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

A charity has made dire warnings about the effects of a no deal Brexit on older people.

Age Scotland says that crashing out of the European Union (EU) could have a serious impact on Scotland’s oldest and most vulnerable people due to shortages of medication and qualified health and care staff.

The charity is calling for urgent reassurances over contingency plans in the face of uncertainty.

Thousands of older EU citizens living in Scotland, and Scottish citizens abroad, could also be plunged into limbo over their immigration status, with many be unable to complete the required paperwork in time.

Age Scotland has published a report detailing ten questions that the UK government needs to answer on the impact of Brexit on older people in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has estimated there are 17,000 EU nationals working in Scotland’s health and social care services, with an estimated 9,830 EU nationals working in Scotland’s social care sector alone.

There are fears Brexit will exacerbate existing staff shortages in the health and social sector, and put additional pressure on hospitals and community health services.

Although a huge amount of effort has already gone into preparation for supplies of essential medicines, there is still a risk in the event of logistical difficulties and longer term disruption to the industry.

Shortages of food and possible price rises will have a severe impact on the 170,000 older Scottish people who are already living in poverty, many with long-term health conditions.

An estimated 8360 people aged 65 and over from other EU countries currently live in Scotland, with many having considered it their home for decades. Many of these, including people with dementia and other cognitive impairments, will not apply for the EU Settlement Scheme by the due date.

Those without internet access will need to visit the nearest scanning centre, which could involve a round trip of more than a day. This may be a struggle, since a third of older people never or rarely use the internet and a quarter do not have access to a car.

Older Scottish citizens living in the EU will also face uncertainty over their residency and healthcare rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Older people with existing health problems may find it difficult to buy private insurance or the price extortionate, having previously relied on their European Health Insurance Card for medical cover.

If they choose to return to the UK following Brexit, the government will need to ensure they can swiftly get access to the housing, care, and other support that they need. 

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “We have serious concerns about the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s older and most vulnerable people. There are too many unanswered questions that the UK government urgently needs to address. 

“Our health and social care sectors depend heavily on workers from the European Union, and are already struggling to cope with rising demand. While those already here will be able to stay, future workers coming from the EU will not get preferential treatment and some may be excluded by income thresholds keeping out low-paid staff. This means older people with debilitating health conditions will face even longer waits for the care that they need.”

Age Scotland's briefing paper is available here.