Brexit will not divide medical cooperation, conference hears

by Tim Tonkin

Brexit will not stop doctors in the UK and Europe from working together in the interests of advancing healthcare and medicine, the BMA has pledged.

Location: International UK
Published: Tuesday 22 October 2019
Chaand Nagpaul speaks at a podium in front of the EU flag

Brexit will not stop doctors in the UK and Europe from working together in the interests of advancing healthcare and medicine, the BMA has pledged.

Members of the medical profession will stand shoulder to shoulder and not allow the UK’s exit from the EU to hinder vital future collaborative work in the interests of patients and health, according the BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul.

Speaking at the UEMS (European Union of Medical Specialists) conference held at BMA House on 19 October, Dr Nagpaul said that no matter what form of exit from the EU took place, solidarity and cooperation between doctors would not be compromised.

He added that organisations such as UEMS had and would continue to play a ‘hugely important role’, in mitigating the effect Brexit may have on European healthcare.

He said: ‘For more than 60 years, the UEMS, as the oldest pan-European medical organisation, has epitomised an important ideal: the notion that, as doctors, we must stand together shoulder-to-shoulder to protect the interests of patients – and that means prioritising our shared focus on improving health outcomes above petty politics.

‘You are the first such pan-European organisation to confirm the BMA’s ongoing and full membership of this organisation whatever the outcome of Brexit.

‘I know that we will continue to rely on your help and support as we seek to ensure that – whatever the outcome of Brexit – the future relationship between the EU and UK is conducive to the delivery of high-quality health services.’


Final say

With Parliament yet to vote on a revised withdrawal agreement approved by prime minister Boris Johnson and the EU, Dr Nagpaul told the conference that the BMA remained opposed to the UK exiting the EU.

He added that while a no-deal exit from the EU would have incredibly dire consequences for the NHS, any deal to leave should be subjected to a second referendum, so that the public had the final say on whether to leave Europe.

He said: ‘Through the BMA, doctors in Britain speak with one voice on the issues which matter most to our members and to patients.

‘We have stood firm in our position that the UK’s relationship with the EU must be put back to the people, because we know that Brexit will be disastrous for doctors and disastrous for patients, and we’re conscious too that a no-deal Brexit would be especially damaging to health services across the UK and Europe.

‘From the supply of medicines and the ability of patients to access care, to the impact on our NHS in Northern Ireland and on the health workforce: no part of the health service will be left unscathed by a no deal.’


Recognition of contribution

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 Andrew Rowland (pictured below).

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.


Andrew Roland gives a speech at ARM Andrew Roland, BMA international committee deputy chair

Other recipients included Professor Deborah Bax who held the post of president of UEMS Rheumatology Section between 2011 and 2013, and consultant Ian Barrison who received the UEMS decoration of honour for his work in gastroenterology.

The conference also saw London-based transplant surgeon Vassilios Papalois elected as president of UEMS.

Professor Paplois, who is from Greece, works as head of specialty for transplantation surgery, consultant transplant and general surgeon at Hammersmith Hospital, previously served as the UEMS’ general secretary.