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No-deal Brexit will "make the disintegration of the health service an ever more real prospect”, BMA warns

Published on 02/09/19 at 12:51pm

As the UK hurtles towards a catastrophic and autocratic exit from the European Union, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned of the “devastating impact” a no-deal Brexit would inflict on an already underfunded NHS over the challenging winter period.

The briefing paper, titled A health service on the brink: The dangers of a 'no deal' Brexit, details the wide-ranging damage such an exit would reap during a period when demand for the health service spikes each year. The BMA describes the past two annual periods as “two consecutive catastrophic winters”, and warns of another “expected winter crisis” which threatens to make “the disintegration of the health service an ever more real prospect”.

The paper poses over 40 different questions to the UK Government relating to areas including:

  • The NHS workforce
  • Access to medicines
  • Reciprocal healthcare arrangements
  • Healthcare in Northern Ireland
  • Medical research

“Cancelled operations, missed cancer treatment targets and patients in corridors waiting for hours on end to be seen; recent winters have seen unprecedented scenes unfold in our hospitals, GP surgeries and across the NHS, with patients suffering and staff under increasing pressure as resources and capacity struggle to keep up with rocketing demand,” explained Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Council Chair. “Add to that chaos a 'no deal' Brexit, and the disintegration of the health service becomes an ever more real prospect.

“The BMA has been clear of the danger that Brexit poses to the NHS, its staff and patients – a 'no deal' will severely damage our health service and the nation’s health,” he continued. “From disruption to essential medicine supplies, patient healthcare and the loss of highly skilled doctors, to the potential return of a hard border in Northern Ireland, no area of health will be left unscathed by a 'no deal'. The consequences will be catastrophic.

“We understand the Government is about to begin a campaign telling the public to ‘Get Ready’ for a 'no deal', but with mere weeks until we potentially crash out, there are still urgent questions for ministers to answer, showing how far from ‘ready’ the NHS really is. What guarantees can be made that radioisotopes – vital for cancer treatment and diagnosis – will continue to be imported into the UK without delay in the event of 'no deal'? What actions will the Government take to ensure that economic benefits are not given priority over the nation’s health in a rush to secure trade agreements?”

He concludes: “Given the dangers, every possible step must be taken to avoid it. The public deserve the right to make an informed choice on leaving the EU. Give them the final say on Brexit.”

Matt Fellows

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