Brexit poses ‘substantial risks to healthcare’, says BMA

Written by Tom Freeman on 2 February 2018 in News

BMA warns post-Brexit trade deals could hamper public health measures and open NHS Scotland up to competition

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Doctors union the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned public health policy could be hampered by Britain’s new post-Brexit trade deals.

In a submission to an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, the BMA said private investors and commercial interests must not be given more power to oppose bold public health policy.

Previous policies in Scotland which have been challenged by industry include the smoking ban and minimum unit pricing for alcohol, which comes into force this year despite being passed by parliament in 2012.

Trade deals could also open the Scottish NHS to competition from the private sector and reduce the standards of imported food, the BMA warned.

The body also expressed concern that there was still no clarity over the future of immigration or research funding after the UK leaves the European Union.

BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Bennie said: “The BMA have been clear that Brexit poses a series of substantial risks to healthcare, and public health in Scotland. We are yet to see sufficient action to believe there is a real commitment to address these issues, in particular at a UK Government level.

“A key example includes the impact of trade agreements on public health. We know that these deals will be the subject of considerable negotiation, but there must be a clear red line which rules out any moves that put at risk the ability of Governments at all levels in the UK to introduce legitimate measures that tackle the extremely serious public health issues we face in Scotland.

“With our NHS already struggling to cope with rising demand, challenges like obesity, or our damaging relationship with alcohol must be dealt with through serious, comprehensive action.

“There is a risk that new trade deals may increase the power of business and investors to challenge, or even demand compensation when legitimate measures to improve public health are introduced. This absolutely must not be allowed to happen.”

Last week both Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox repeated the claim that Brexit will lead to higher funding for the NHS, but a coalition of health groups said leaving the EU without a deal in place would disrupt the supply chain of medicines.

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