No deal Brexit would be catastrophic for the NHS, warns BMA

Failure to reach a deal on the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union risks deepening the NHS workforce crisis, driving up costs and increasing the risk of pandemics, the BMA has warned.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Photo: JH Lancy)
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Photo: JH Lancy)

Just eight months before the UK will officially quit the EU, BMA leaders have warned that leaving without an agreement - a so-called 'no deal Brexit' - could be hugely damaging for the NHS.

The BMA has publicly backed calls for the public to have 'a final say' on the Brexit deal. Although planning to avoid the worst consequences of quitting the EU for the health service has now begun, measures being taken are 'too little, too, late', the union warns.

Doctors' leaders say 1m patients receiving treatment for rare diseases could be put at risk if the UK no longer has access to the European Rare Disease Network, while access to materials vital for cancer care could also be undermined.

The loss of reciprocal healthcare deals with EU countries could drive up costs by as much as £1bn, the BMA warns, if thousands of UK pensioners living in the EU are forced to return for treatment.

NHS workforce

Meanwhile, the chronic NHS workforce crisis could be exacerbated by barriers to EU staff working in the UK, the BMA warns, if doctors face 'uncertainty over future immigration status and confusion around the mutual recognition of medical qualifications across the EU'.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul 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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