Hard border threat to healthcare, the BMA warns

Certain health services could become unsustainable in Northern Ireland following Brexit in the event of a return to hard borders, the BMA has warned

The risks to health services and doctors’ ability to practise in the event of a return to hard borders has been spelt out as part of the association’s latest Brexit briefing paper.

It says: “While the BMA welcomes the UK government’s commitment to protect and support north-south cooperation and to avoid a ‘hard’ border, the failure to specifically mention cross-border provision of health services is a worrying omission.

“Cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is in part funded by the EU, has been crucial in facilitating and delivering these services while also ensuring that highly skilled clinicians can be attracted and retained in Northern Ireland.”

A joint report published by the UK and EU last December includes an agreement in principle against a return to hard borders following Brexit.

This commitment was reiterated by prime minister Theresa May in her Mansion House speech on March 2, although she offered no further detail on future UK immigration models and the rights of EU nationals following Brexit.

In its latest briefing paper published this week, the BMA warns that failure to secure a post-Brexit deal between the UK and EU would risk this outcome.

It adds: “The [ongoing] lack of clarity on how Brexit will affect the working lives of doctors could have a detrimental effect on the choices made by these health professionals currently living and working in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”

It is estimated that around 30,000 people move between Northern Ireland and the Republic each day, many of whom are likely to be doctors and other healthcare professionals.

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