Doctors have united with healthcare leaders to reassure NHS staff about leaving the EU — as pledges of billions of pounds of extra NHS funding evaporated.
BMA council chair Mark Porter urged politicians ‘not to play games with the UK’s health services’ as they decide the next steps after the country voted to exit the EU last Friday.
He added: ‘In the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU, the BMA reaffirms its commitment to working with our European partners and the EU to safeguard the future of our profession and the patients we serve.
‘We stand together as one profession with our colleagues from Europe and across the world, with whom we live, work and study and on whom the NHS depends.’
NHS England national medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said in an interview last week that it was ‘important’ to make staff from the EU ‘feel welcome’ following the referendum vote.
‘If you are a European doctor or nurse you might not feel too welcome at the moment,’ he was quoted in the press. ‘The essence of delivering high-quality care is dependent on a workforce that feels valued and secure.’
NHS England also joined the BMA and many hospital trusts to show its support for NHS staff from European countries on social media following the Brexit vote.
‘It is estimated [55,000] out of the 1.2 million #NHS staff are #EU citizens,’ NHS England said in a tweet. ‘We are one #NHS team working together. We #LoveOurEUStaff.’
Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Joe Harrison describes the Brexit vote to his staff in a letter as a ‘seismic political change’ whose repercussions were ‘currently unknown’.
‘It will take time to understand what exit from the EU will mean for all of us,’ the letter adds. ‘I know the corridor conversations of the rights and wrongs of exiting will continue for some time.’
The letter says: ‘I do want to be clear that there is one thing that will not change. And that is the high regard and respect which we hold for all our staff, and particularly today those who come from overseas to work in our hospital and in our NHS.’
These messages of support came as politicians backing Brexit appeared to backtrack on claims that leaving the EU would bring extra cash into the NHS.
Brexit campaigners had claimed that leaving the EU would free up billions of pounds for the NHS — a claim described by Dr Porter last week as ‘beyond irresponsible’.
‘It is a promise that has been proven to be based on fantasy figures,’ he told the BMA annual representative meeting in Belfast on Monday last week. ‘But it is maintained as a slogan designed to deceive.’
Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show last Sunday that he had ‘never’ said the NHS would receive billions from a Brexit. ‘What we actually said was a significant amount of it would go to the NHS,’ he added during the interview.
‘There was talk about it going to the NHS, but there are other bits and pieces [such as] agriculture.’
The BMA has received several calls from members who are worried about how their careers and lives could be affected by the UK leaving the EU.
One UK citizen who is studying medicine at a medical school in Europe has raised concerns about whether her qualification will be recognised in the UK if the country exits the union.
Others have raised concerns about whether the UK exiting the EU could affect their registration with the GMC.
Chief executive of the GMC Niall Dickson issued a statement on Friday saying that a withdrawal from Europe would have ‘implications for the way we regulate doctors’.
The statement adds: ‘We understand that the vote to leave the EU will have no impact on the registration status of any doctor already on the register.
‘We will now explore how doctors from the EU will be granted access to the UK medical register and how any concerns about those doctors will be shared between us and other countries.
‘We will also seek to understand the implications for UK doctors wishing to work in the EU once the UK is no longer a member state.’
Read Dr Porter’s statement
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