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With the NHS at breaking point, the government must put healthcare front and centre in Brexit negotiations, warns BMA

With Brexit negotiations due to begin, the BMA is calling on the government to protect future patient care by putting healthcare front and centre of its plans.

Since the vote to leave the EU, the BMA has been calling on the government to1:

  • Give the highly skilled EU doctors and medical researchers in the UK permanent residence in the UK. A BMA survey found that 42 per cent of EU doctors working in the UK are considering in light of the referendum result2.
  • Ensure a flexible immigration system which meets the needs of the UK health service and medical research sector
  • Preserve existing reciprocal arrangements, including mutual recognition of professional qualifications and measures which protect patient safety
  • Secure ongoing access to EU research programmes and research funding, to maintain the UK's world-leading science and research base 
  • Ensure Brexit does not hinder the UK's ability to play a leading role in European and international efforts to tackle global health threats
  • Address the unique impact Brexit may have on the health service in Northern Ireland

Commenting ahead of the start of negotiations, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said:

“With the NHS at breaking point3, the government must keep the health service and its patients at the forefront during Brexit negotiations and control the impact that leaving the EU will have on health and social care across the UK.

“Leaving the EU poses several risks to healthcare across the UK, not least in its staffing as almost half of the 10,000 doctors working here are considering leaving in light of the referendum result. These doctors have enhanced the UK’s medical research, brought expertise to the NHS and higher education, and filled shortages in specialties which may otherwise have been unable to cope. While we welcome the government’s pledge to provide certainty for EU nationals working in the NHS, the time has come for it to deliver fully on those repeated promises by providing them with permanent residence in the UK.

“Alongside this, it is vital that the next government ensures long-term stability for the NHS by protecting life-changing medical research which benefits from European funding; ensuring that leaving the EU will not delay the UK’s access to vital pharmaceuticals; guaranteeing that leaving the EU will not hinder efforts to tackle global health threats; and by maintaining a soft border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland to help ensure that cross-border health services and patient access to healthcare are not affected by leaving the EU.”

ENDS

Notes to editor:

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.

1. https://www.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/influence/nhs-breaking-point/breaking-point-brexit

2. https://www.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/policy-and-research/education-training-and-workforce/eu-doctors-survey

3. https://www.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/influence/nhs-breaking-point