Failure to secure deal with EU will be ‘disastrous’ for NHS amid Covid recovery, warns BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Friday 12 June 2020

If the Government fails to reach a deal on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, crashing out in December will come at the worst possible time for the health service, the BMA warns today.

As the NHS struggles to provide care for tens of thousands of patients, delayed due to Covid-19, it must also consider the prospect of a second peak in infection rates this winter.

Writing to the Prime Minister ahead of his ‘stocktake’ meeting with EU counterparts on Monday to discuss the progress of negotiations, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul says that all steps must be taken to rule out a ‘disastrous’ no-deal scenario and to protect the NHS, patients and staff.

He writes:

“Having consistently warned of the damaging consequences that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would have for patients, the health workforce and health services across the UK, we must once again urge your government to make the pragmatic decisions necessary to avoid such a disastrous scenario.

“Such an outcome would have been catastrophic for our members and their patients pre-pandemic. Its impact on an NHS, struggling to deal with the massive backlog of non-COVID-19 clinical work and threatened by a second peak in infections during the challenging winter period, simply cannot be countenanced.”

To protect and improve health and healthcare, the BMA demands that the future relationship must include arrangements that:

  • Support the medical workforce;
  • Maintain cooperation on health protection and security;
  • Ensure access to medicines;
  • Promote medical research;
  • Maintain reciprocal healthcare arrangements;
  • Facilitate cross-border healthcare and
  • Safeguard the NHS.

More details are available in the letter here.

Commenting, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“Covid-19 has brought with it the greatest global health crisis in modern history, and over the last few months the UK Government’s priority has rightly been to focus on attempting to deal with the pandemic. But the end of the transition period is fast approaching and if we do crash out with no agreement at the end of December, this will come at the worst possible time for the NHS and patients.

“The Government must therefore do everything in its power to avoid this disastrous scenario and secure a deal that protects health, patients and the NHS. This includes ensuring doctors who qualified in EU countries can seamlessly and safely come to practise in the UK, maintaining cooperation and communication on emerging health threats, and avoiding disruption to vital medical supplies.

“This year has underlined the fact that illness pays no attention to borders, and why a truly global approach to health is needed in fighting a 21st century pandemic. As the Prime Minister prepares to meet with EU leaders on Monday we say: do not let the UK be cut off and put the health of Britain and the rest of Europe at risk.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Full letter here.
  2. Find more information on the BMA’s work on Brexit here.

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