No deal Brexit risks 'disintegration' of NHS, warns BMA

A no deal Brexit will 'make the disintegration of the NHS an ever more real prospect' the BMA has warned, amid growing concerns that the UK could exit the EU later this year without an agreement.

BMA leaders have highlighted key concerns over questions on the NHS workforce, access to medicines, reciprocal healthcare arrangements and medical research as the government presses ahead with plans to quit the EU on 31 October 'come what may'.

The warning from the BMA - in a briefing document entitled 'A health service on the brink: the dangers of a no deal Brexit' - came as thousands of protesters took to the streets across the UK on Saturday in response to government plans to suspend parliament in the weeks before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

BMA leaders warned that a no deal Brexit threatens to 'ravage' all sectors of the NHS. After two 'catastrophic' winters for the health service - with hospitals forced to cancel routine operations, long waits for treatment, hospitals full and GP practices struggling with extra workload - the BMA has warned that additional chaos from a no deal Brexit could leave the service unable to cope.

No deal Brexit

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul 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 BMA briefing warns that leaving the EU without an agreement could leave the UK unable to ensure that nearly 22,000 doctors working in the NHS who first qualified in the EEA are fit to practise, because information-sharing arrangements between the GMC and European health bodies could be undermined.

It also raises concerns over the continued ability of these staff to continue working in the UK.

The association has asked for clarification over advice that will be given to doctors in the event of medicines shortages, and how the government plans to 'avoid the UK becoming a third-tier market for medicines'.

NHS funding

The BMA has also demanded to know whether additional funding will be made available for the NHS to 'mitigate pressures that occur as a result of Brexit, either in addition to the ad hoc winter funding allocations, or in lieu of it'.

Dr Nagpaul added: '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.'

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