Health Policy February 28, 2019
There is no clearer immediate threat to the nation’s health than the impact of Brexit, say doctors

By News Feature - Accountable Care Journal

Leading doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) have warned the Prime Minister that "there is no clearer immediate threat to the nation's health than the impact of Brexit" in a letter sent on 27 February.

The letter, signed by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA Council, and 38 others reflected on the damage a 'no-deal' Brexit outcome could have on health services and wider patient outcomes. Arguing that the public did not vote for an 'impoverished and weakened health service,’ the group called on the government to delay the process and give the public a final say on the deal.

Concerns outlined include; the supply of medicines and medical radioisotopes, access to reciprocal healthcare and the implications for the NHS and research workforce. In particular, the letter raised worries about the impact of the loss of EU staff.

As debates continue in Westminster and Brussels, many sectors have expressed anxieties surrounding the prevailing uncertainties of Britain's exit from the European Union, including key healthcare voices. The government has responded to calls from the Brexit Health Alliance for more medicines and medical devices to avoid shortages.

Niall Dickson, Co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance recently said: "To make sure patients are protected we need an agreement with a transition period. No deal, in spite of all this effort, means more risk."

Earlier this week, further details were provided about additional freight capacity, airplane use, buffer stocks and extra warehouse space to support preparations. “This is vital because around three-quarters of the medicines and over half the clinical consumables we use come from, or via, the European Union," added Dickson.

The letter can be downloaded here.

Full text

Dear Prime Minister,

In 30 days from now, the UK is set to leave the EU. As doctors, our primary responsibility is to our patients. This requires us to not only provide high-quality care but to speak out as patient advocates: we believe there is no clearer immediate threat to the nation's health than the impact of Brexit.

As we approach 29th March, we are no clearer to knowing whether the UK will crash out - by accident or design - with all the chaos this will entail for the NHS and our patients. We have repeatedly warned that a ‘no deal’ Brexit will have catastrophic consequences for patients, the health workforce, health services and the nation’s health. From the supply of medicines and medical radioisotopes, to access to reciprocal healthcare and implications for the NHS and research workforce, there isn’t a part of the health service that will be unaffected by the UK’s departure from the EU.

Contingency plans are being put in place, but we are yet to be reassured that they will work in all and every outcome. Any lapses in these plans, particularly around the supply of medicines, will detrimentally affect our ability to provide safe and effective care to our patients.

Surely no one who cast their vote in the EU referendum voted for this situation. No one voted for an impoverished or weakened health service, or for a situation in which thousands of highly skilled EU citizens would feel compelled to consider leaving the NHS.

As the Brexit negotiations reach their final, critical stages, we are asking you again to give the public the final say on a decision that will determine the country’s future for decades to come. We, therefore, ask you to delay our exit in order to allow sufficient time for this.

Yours sincerely

Dr Chaand Nagpaul CBE (and others) 

#ACJ #ACJBrexit