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No deal would be 'catastrophic'

EU referendum
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Leaving the EU without a deal could have ‘catastrophic’ consequences for patients and the NHS, the BMA has warned.

A no-deal exit from the EU in March 2019 would have wide-ranging and dramatic implications for the entire health service, according to the BMA’s latest paper examining the potential effects of Brexit.

The report warns that crashing out without a deal would jeopardise everything from EU staff’s ability to work in the NHS, to the supply of medicines and the collapse of reciprocal health arrangements denying treatment to patients in the UK and in Europe.

It further accuses ministers of failing to give due consideration to medicine and health in Brexit negotiations, adding that the Government’s planning and contingency preparations for the health service have been ‘too little, too late’.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said that the association had made clear its opposition to Brexit and demands for the public to have the final say on any deal, at this year’s BMA annual representative meeting.

He added that doctors had a duty to highlight their concerns over what a no-deal Brexit might mean for their patients and for the NHS.

He said: ‘It has become clear to the BMA that the risks of Brexit for the nation’s health are too great, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure the kind of deal which will work to the benefit of patients, the medical workforce and health services across the UK and Europe.

‘Now that more is known regarding the potential impact of Brexit on patients, the health workforce and health services, the BMA believes the public should have a final say on the Brexit deal, to reject a “no deal” and all the risks that such an outcome carries.

‘Some will say the BMA is scaremongering by warning of the dangers of a "no-deal" Brexit, but this is not the case. As experts in delivering health services and providing care for our patients, we have a duty to set out the consequences of leaving the EU with no future deal in place.’

The report comes amid growing concerns among some UK and EU political leaders that the potential of a no-deal Brexit in March 2019 is increasing.

Meanwhile the health and social care secretary Matt Hancock last month admitted that the Government was considering the of stockpiling medicines and vaccines, in advance of possible delays and shortages resulting from a no deal Brexit.

Among the warnings set out in the paper, the BMA states that the Government has yet to provide sufficient detail on its proposals for a future immigration system, and warns that a no deal Brexit would exacerbate this lack of clarity.

It further warns that in a ‘worst-case scenario’ a lack of a deal could see an end to reciprocal health arrangements between the UK and EU.

Such a situation would potentially lead to thousands of UK citizens, currently living in the EU, requiring their healthcare to be met by the NHS, resulting in predicted additional costs of £500m and £1bn a year.

The paper also warns that a no deal would risk the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland, potentially complicating existing cross-border health services and the ability of doctors to work on both sides of the border.

Find out more about the no-deal scenario

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