No-deal Brexit could be catastrophic for healthcare, says BMA

The BMA has outlined its concerns regarding a no-deal Brexit, in preparation for a potential worst-case scenario in March

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that a no-deal Brexit could be ‘catastrophic’ for healthcare workers and patients alike.

Its new briefing paper outlines exactly what is at stake for health services if a deal isn’t reached by March 2019 – the deadline for the Withdrawal Agreement.

The paper states that, in a worst-case scenario, a no-deal Brexit could:

  • Cause real disruption for almost a million patients receiving treatment for rare diseases, as the UK would be excluded from the European Rare Disease Network
  • Cause delays in diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients because the UK would have to source important radioisotopes from outside of EURATOM
  • End reciprocal healthcare agreements which could disrupt patient care and increase insurance costs. If 190,000 UK state pensioners currently signed up to the S1 scheme and living within the EU return to the UK, it could cost the health services between £500m and £1bn a year
  • Weaken the UK’s response to pandemics and increase the chances of diseases spreading as we lose partnerships with key EU bodies, such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
  • Risk the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which could see doctors leaving the profession and patients having to travel miles to receive care
  • See fewer doctors and other medical staff – at a time when there are already huge shortages of these roles – due to uncertainty over future immigration status and confusion around the mutual recognition of medical qualifications across the EU

At the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in June, doctors made it clear that they believe Brexit poses a major threat to the NHS and the nation’s health. The UK leaves the EU in less than eight months, and uncertainty remains rife.

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The BMA supports the idea of the public having a final say on the Brexit deal, now that more is known regarding the potential impact of Brexit on the NHS and the nation’s health.

Commenting on the briefing paper, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“The consequences of ‘no deal’ could have potentially catastrophic consequences for patients, the health workforce, services and the nation’s health.

“The UK government has finally started planning to ensure the health sector and industry are prepared in the short term for a no deal Brexit, but this is too little, too late and quite frankly, proof that the impact on the NHS has not received the attention it deserves in the Brexit negotiations.

“Some will say we are scaremongering by warning of the dangers of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, but this is not the case. We aren’t shying away from being honest about what is at stake for health services if the UK and the EU fail to reach a deal. 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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