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Leaving the European Union without a deal could be catastrophic for NHS

A no deal Brexit could have could have potentially catastrophic consequences for patients, the health workforce, services and the nation’s health.

In a new briefing paper, the BMA outlines what is at stake for health services if the UK and the EU fail to reach a deal on the Withdrawal Agreement by March 2019.

The paper warns 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 £500 million and £1 billion per 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.

With less than eight months to go until the UK leaves the EU, the BMA says there is still far too much uncertainty and confusion around the implications of Brexit for patients, doctors and wider health services.

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.

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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