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Put NHS at ‘front and centre’ of Brexit negotiations, BMA urges

Patient care and medical research will suffer without flexible immigration system

Caroline White

Monday, 19 June 2017

Healthcare must be at “the front and centre” of any Brexit deal, to protect future patient care, doctors’ leaders have warned, as formal negotiations on Britain’s departure from the European Union get under way today.

Since the UK vote to leave the EU last June, the BMA has been calling on the government to provide assurances on several key healthcare issues.

These include granting the 10,000 highly skilled EU doctors and medical researchers in the UK permanent residence. Nearly half have told the BMA that they are considering leaving the UK in light of Brexit.

The BMA also wants to see a flexible immigration system which meets the needs of the UK health service and medical research sector as well as the preservation of existing reciprocal arrangements, including mutual recognition of professional qualifications and measures which protect patient safety.

Also on the wish list are securing ongoing access to EU research programmes and research funding, to maintain the UK's world-leading science and research base; ensuring Brexit doesn’t hinder the UK's ability to have a leading role in European and international efforts to tackle global health threats; and addressing the unique impact Brexit may have on the health service in Northern Ireland.

“With the NHS at breaking point, the government must keep the health service and its patients at the forefront during Brexit negotiations and control the impact that leaving the EU will have on health and social care across the UK,” commented Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair.

“Leaving the EU poses several risks to healthcare across the UK, not least in its staffing as almost half of the 10,000 doctors working here are considering leaving in light of the referendum result,” he said.

“These doctors have enhanced the UK’s medical research, brought expertise to the NHS and higher education, and filled shortages in specialties which may otherwise have been unable to cope. “

He added: “While we welcome the government’s pledge to provide certainty for EU nationals working in the NHS, the time has come for it to deliver fully on those repeated promises by providing them with permanent residence in the UK.”

He continued: “Alongside this, it is vital that the government ensures long-term stability for the NHS by protecting life-changing medical research which benefits from European funding and ensuring that leaving the EU will not delay the UK’s access to vital pharmaceuticals.”

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