BMA issues Brexit winter warning
Author: Mark Gould
A 'no deal' Brexit on 31 October 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, the British Medical Association (BMA) today warns.
In a new briefing paper entitled '"A health service on the brink: the dangers of a 'no deal' Brexit" the BMA outlines how a departure from the European Union (EU) without an agreement could ravage the NHS, leaving no area of healthcare untouched.
The report warns that the NHS faces the double whammy of the impact of a 'no deal' Brexit as well as coping with the expected winter crisis. Having now experienced two consecutive catastrophic winters – and with services increasingly unable to bounce back over summer – the BMA says the effects of a 'no deal' Brexit will “make the disintegration of the health service an ever more real prospect”.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “Cancelled operations, missed cancer treatment targets and patients in corridors waiting for hours on end to be seen; recent winters have seen unprecedented scenes unfold in our hospitals, GP surgeries and across the NHS, with patients suffering and staff under increasing pressure as resources and capacity struggle to keep up with rocketing demand.
“Add to that chaos a 'no deal' Brexit, and the disintegration of the health service becomes an ever more real prospect.”
The briefing also demands more than 40 questions are urgently answered by the government on areas such as workforce, access to medicines, reciprocal healthcare arrangements, and healthcare in Northern Ireland.
Dr Nagpaul added: “The BMA has been clear of the danger that Brexit poses to the NHS, its staff and patients – a 'no deal' will severely damage our health service and the nation’s health.
“From disruption to essential medicine supplies, patient healthcare and the loss of highly skilled doctors, to the potential return of a hard border in Northern Ireland, no area of health will be left unscathed by a 'no deal'. The consequences will be catastrophic.
“We understand the government is about to begin a campaign telling the public to ‘Get Ready’ for a 'no deal', but with mere weeks until we potentially crash out, there are still urgent questions for ministers to answer, showing how far from ‘ready’ the NHS really is.
“What guarantees can be made that radioisotopes – vital for cancer treatment and diagnosis – will continue to be imported into the UK without delay in the event of 'no deal'? What actions will the government take to ensure that economic benefits are not given priority over the nation’s health in a rush to secure trade agreements?
"Given the dangers, every possible step must be taken to avoid it. The public deserve the right to make an informed choice on leaving the EU. Give them the final say on Brexit.”