No deal Brexit ‘potentially catastrophic’ for NHS, BMA warns

Written by Jenni Davidson on 17 August 2018 in News

The British Medical Association warns of potential staffing issues, delays to treatment and an end to reciprocal

Hospital ward - Image credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

The British Medical Association has warned that a no deal Brexit could have “potentially catastrophic consequences” for the NHS.

A Brexit briefing report from the BMA warns that leaving the EU without a deal could jeopardise everything from the ability of EU staff to work in the NHS to the supply of medicines and lead to the collapse of reciprocal health arrangements denying treatment to patients in the UK and in Europe.

It says that Brexit will have a “destabilising effect” on the health and social care workforce and put more pressure on already overstretched staffing levels.

Around 5.7 per cent of doctors in Scotland currently come from the European Economic Area (EEA).

Last year the BMA survey 2,000 doctors from European countries working in the UK about the impact of the Brexit referendum on their future intentions.

Forty-five per cent said they were considering leaving following the referendum vote, with 39 per cent of those surveyed saying they had already made plans to leave.

The BMA also warns that a no deal scenario would lead to “considerable uncertainty” over regulation of medicines and “significant ramifications” for timely access to new medicines and medical devices.

Cancer patients in particular could face delays to diagnosis and treatment as the UK would be outside Euratom, which would remove the guarantee of consistent and prompt access to radioisotopes, which cannot be stockpiled due to a short shelf life.

The association further warns that in a ‘worst-case scenario’ a lack of a deal could see an end to reciprocal health arrangements between the UK and EU.

This would potentially lead to thousands of UK citizens living in the EU needing their healthcare to be covered by the NHS, resulting in predicted additional costs of between £500m and £1bn a year.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘It has become clear to the BMA that the risks of Brexit for the nation’s health are too great, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure the kind of deal which will work to the benefit of patients, the medical workforce and health services across the UK and Europe.

‘Now that more is known regarding the potential impact of Brexit on patients, the health workforce and health services, the BMA believes the public should have a final say on the Brexit deal, to reject a “no deal” and all the risks that such an outcome carries.

‘Some will say the BMA is scaremongering by warning of the dangers of a "no-deal" Brexit, but this is not the case.

“As experts in delivering health services and providing care for our patients, we have a duty to set out the consequences of leaving the EU with no future deal in place."

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