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No-deal Brexit could have devastating impact on NHS

‘Alarming’ government report vindicates BMA’s warning of consequences for drug supplies and winter service provision

Louise Prime

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The “alarming” official government report into the potential consequences for the UK of leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 October without a deal in place vindicates doctors’ earlier warnings about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, the British Medical Association (BMA) warned this morning. The government yesterday released official concerns about the possibility of drugs shortages, exacerbated winter pressures on the NHS, difficulty accessing healthcare and other services for UK nationals living in EU countries, and workforce shortages in social care, which the BMA said underlines why it must entirely rule out no-deal.

The Operation Yellowhammer report into the “reasonable worst case planning assumptions” warned the government that:

  • The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on Channel crossings make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays. Although some products can be stockpiled, others cannot because of their short shelf lives – and it will not be practical to stockpile products to cover expected delays of up to six months.
  • Any disruption to reduce, delay or stop supply of medicines for UK veterinary use would reduce the ability to prevent and control disease outbreaks, with potential detrimental impacts for zoonoses as well as animal health and welfare.
  • UK nationals can expect to lose rights and access to services in EU member states along with their citizenship. Although all EU member states have made legislative proposals regarding this, not all have passed legislation to secure all rights to services for UK nationals – and even where legislation does exist it is mixed in terms of the level of generosity and detail. UK pensioners, workers and travellers are not guaranteed healthcare and will be treated in the same way as other “3rd country” nationals – and they could be required to demonstrate residency, current or previous employment, enter a social insurance scheme, or purchase private insurance.
  • A significant impact on the adult social care market of an increase in inflation following Brexit, with possible provider failure, as staff and supply costs rise.
  • Further problems include decreased supply of certain types of fresh food, increased immigration checks for UK citizens travelling to and from the EU, significant electricity price increases, clashes between UK fishing vessels and EU boats in UK waters, disruption of law enforcement and information sharing between the UK and the EU, regional traffic disruption and fuel supply problems in London and south-east England, and a negative impact on Gibraltar’s economy.

The BMA warned last week that a no deal- Brexit will have a devastating impact on the NHS, at a time when hospitals, GP surgeries and the wider health service prepare for the most challenging period of year. BMA Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said yesterday, after the publication of the Operation Yellowhammer report: “This alarming document reinforces the BMA’s stark warnings about the devastating impact a ‘no deal’ Brexit could have, and vindicates those doctors who have had the courage to speak out on the risks that crashing out of the EU without a deal poses to the NHS, patients and the wider health of the UK.

“Here we see in black and white the government warning of disruption to vital medicine supplies, a higher risk of disease outbreaks due to veterinary medicine supply issues, and UK pensioners in the EU being unable to access healthcare from 1 November if there is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

“As we outlined just last week, the government also recognises how the timing of our exit will be key – coinciding with the beginning of winter, when the NHS experiences its most difficult period, a ‘no deal’ risks pushing health services to the brink.

“The warnings around social care providers folding within months of Brexit day are particularly concerning, having a huge impact on our most vulnerable patients and the wider health service in the depths of winter.

“Given what’s at stake, this document underlines why the government needs to entirely rule out ‘no deal’ and give the public a final say on Brexit.”

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