Northern Ireland

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BMA Northern Ireland warns that a no deal Brexit will have serious adverse consequences for health

BMA Northern Ireland has today [Thursday 16 August] warned that a ‘no deal’ Brexit will have a serious impact on the delivery of health care. 

In a new briefing paper, the BMA outlines the potential risks presented by ‘no deal’ including the return to a hard border, a break down in all-island service delivery and the impact on the medical workforce if current mutual recognition of professional qualifications and freedom of movement are not maintained.

Speaking about the paper, Dr John D Woods, BMA Northern Ireland council chair said a ‘no deal’ would have serious implications for health care in Northern Ireland. 

“The return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would deter cross border workers, a key element of our health staffing, from making the daily commute and thereby putting an already pressurised service under even more strain,” said Dr Woods.

“The current arrangements for cross-border delivery of health services, such as paediatric cardiac care and cancer services, bring great benefit to patients. On its own, Northern Ireland is not large enough to sustain such all-island specialised services. 

“We therefore run the risk of forcing patients to once again travel considerable distances to receive care but also of exacerbating existing difficulties within the health service to retain experienced, specialist doctors at a time when we really need to attract and keep doctors working here. 

“A failure to recognise professional qualifications creates a very real risk that medical students from Northern Ireland who opt to study and train in the Republic of Ireland would have significant difficulty in returning home to practice medicine in Northern Ireland. 

“Any developments which risk destabilising the Good Friday Agreement could make Northern Ireland a less attractive place to work and will make attracting and retaining clinicians to work in Northern Ireland even more difficult.”

The briefing paper outlines further concerns around a ‘no deal’ including the impact on immigration, medicine and medical devices regulation, reciprocal healthcare, the supply of radioisotopes, public health, health protection and security, medical research and rare disease cooperation. 

To read the full briefing paper, visit:


The BMA believes a Brexit deal must include:

• Continuation of the existing open border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; 
• Ongoing cross-border co-operation in the delivery of healthcare to patients on both sides of the border; 
• Freedom of movement for healthcare workers to live and work on both sides of the border;
• Ongoing MRPQ to provide doctors the means to move and work between both jurisdictions.


For further information please contact:

BMA Northern Ireland, 16 Cromac Place, Cromac Wood, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 2JB
028 9026 9666   (switchboard)
028 9026 9672   (direct line)
074 0880 9519   (mobile / out of hours)
Email: [email protected] 
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