Former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston among latest MPs to join breakaway group

Health and social care committee chair and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston has left the Conservative party to join the newly-formed Independent Group amid increasing uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Health and social care committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston
Health and social care committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston

Dr Wollaston, who is the MP for Totnes in Devon joins fellow committee member Luciana Berger MP, who left the Labour party earlier this week and helped form the group.

In a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, pro-remain Dr Wollaston - along with two other defecting Conservative party MPs Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen - wrote that the government’s handling of Brexit had been the ‘final straw’.

‘Brexit has re-defined the Conservative party - undoing all the efforts to modernise it,’ the letter reads. ‘We find it unconscionable that a party once trusted on the economy, more than any other, is now recklessly marching the country off a cliff edge of no deal. No responsible government should knowingly and deliberately inflict the dire consequences of such a destructive exit on individuals, communities and businesses.’

This latest round of resignations takes the number of MPs in the Independent Group to 11.

No-deal Brexit

In her capacity as chair of the health and social care committee, Dr Wollaston has repeatedly voiced concern over the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the NHS.

Speaking at a committee meeting in November, Dr Wollaston slammed health and social care secretary Matt Hancock over his ‘mythical’ claim that there would be a ‘Brexit dividend’ for the NHS.

Dr Wollaston said this was ‘nonsense’ - adding ‘that was completely debunked by those who regulate our official statistics… You are not seriously sitting here telling us that you think there is going to be a Brexit dividend for the NHS, are you, secretary of state?’

She also called on Mr Hancock to provide ‘much more detail’ about what contingency planning was being implemented ahead of the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Medicine supplies

Dr Wollaston's concerns surrounding contingency planning have since been echoed by the House of Lords EU home affairs subcommittee this month, which gave Mr Hancock ten days to ‘provide further information’ on the supply of medicines and medical devices in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Leading diabetes charities have also warned that supplies of insulin and other vital medicines may be at risk under a no-deal Brexit because the government has failed to provide 'concrete detail' of contingency plans.

Last month, the BMA voiced concerns that a recent spike in medicine shortages could be ‘exacerbated’ by a no-deal Brexit. However, a DHSC spokesperson said there was ‘no evidence’ that this was the case, adding that any problems were probably ‘due to manufacturing or distribution issues’.

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