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European brief - October 2019

Read our monthly European brief to get an overview of the key EU legislative and policy developments which impact the medical profession, as well as the work being carried out by the BMA to ensure that those developments align with our members' interests.

Topics discussed in this month's briefing, include:

  • Brexit update
  • BMA hosts Europe's medical specialists
  • new EU health commissioner responds to BMA questions on cancer prevention.

Download the latest brief


Brexit update

Despite the UK Government securing a revised protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland in the draft withdrawal agreement and an amended political declaration, it was unable to secure the UK’s departure from the EU by the 31 October deadline.

Subsequently, and being cognisant of the dangers that a no deal Brexit posed to the European medical profession, the UK has accepted the EU’s offer of a 'flextension' – which means that the the UK could leave before the deadline if a deal is approved by Parliament.

Accordingly, and as ratification of the draft withdrawal agreement would lead to negotiations on the exact nature of the future relationship between the UK and EU27, we continue to engage with key decision-makers on both sides of the channel in order to ensure that they remain cognisant of our members’ concerns.

For example, with Dr Petra De Sutter MEP, a medical doctor and chair of the EP’s (European Parliament) Internal Market Committee – which, to quote its president, will lead the EP’s work on securing: "The rights of EU and UK citizens, in particular as regards the recognition of their professional qualifications and the right to practice a profession."

Likewise, and as the risk of a no deal Brexit remains, we also continue to work with our European partners to encourage them to work with their members’ respective governments to replicate UK legislation which means that: "in the event of a no deal Brexit, the UK will continue to accept the vast majority of EEA qualifications that are listed in Annex V of the Professional Qualifications Directive on exit day as sufficient evidence of knowledge, skills and experience for entry onto the UK’s medical register."

Read further details about our extensive work on this key issue.


BMA hosts Europe's medical specialists

Falling on the same day that MPs were due to vote on the revised (Brexit) withdrawal agreement, the BMA was proud to host our partner’s - the UEMS (European Union of Medical Specialists) – council meeting with Dr Tom Coffey, health advisor to the Mayor of London, welcoming delegates to the city.

Addressing delegates from over 30 European countries, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul opened the meeting by reiterating the BMA’s opposition to Brexit and stating that: "No matter what decisions politicians take in the coming days and weeks, we now know that we as doctors will stand shoulder to shoulder and put unity and the interests of our patients first."

In addition to their regular business of developing specialist medical curricula, delegates elected Professor Vassilios Papalois – a BMA member and transplant surgeon based in London, who hails from Greece – as its president.

The conference also saw a number of awards granted in recognition of service to the UEMS, including one to the BMA international committee deputy chair, Professor Andrew Rowland. 

Professor Rowland, who is a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine, has served as the UK’s head of delegation to UEMS since 2013 and will be stepping down at the end of this year.


New EU health commissioner responds to BMA questions on cancer prevention

Cypriot nominee, Stella Kyriakides, was officially appointed as the EU’s new health commissioner earlier this month, after receiving formal approval from the EP’s Public Health Committee. Commissioner Kyriakides; a trained medical psychiatrist and former president of a European breast cancer organisation, demonstrated her grasp on the health and food safety portfolio to which she has been assigned during a three-hour long confirmatory hearing in the Parliament

The new commissioner gave particularly strong answers when responding to questions submitted by the BMA about how she plans to ensure prevention is a central part of the new EU Beating Cancer Plan. Having survived the disease herself, she made clear the new EU Cancer Plan will require a wide-ranging all-hands-on deck approach, involving sustained investment in new research, as well as targeted information campaigns around the different factors relating to prevention.

She argued there is a need to invest in changing lifestyles; and that she will have "no qualms taking up those (industry-backed interests) who are not in favour of moving in the right direction."

The BMA’s European Office will be scheduling meetings with the health commissioner’s new team in the next few months to ensure that, in relation to Brexit and a range of other pressing challenges, the voice of UK doctors continues to be heard at EU level.