A no-deal Brexit could have 'catastrophic consequences' for nearly a million UK patients

Carl Court – WPA Pool/Getty ImagesBritish Prime Minister Theresa May views a car on a production line during a visit to the Jaguar Land Rover factory on September 1, 2016 in Solihull, England.
  • The UK’s biggest doctors union says Brexit could be “catastrophic” for the country’s health.
  • Doctors warned that leaving the European Union without a deal would cause disruption for almost one million patients with rare diseases, as well as significant delays for cancer patients
  • The BMA has called for a second Brexit referendum.
  • “The UK government has finally started planning to ensure the health sector and industry are prepared in the short term for a no deal Brexit, but this is too little, too late,” said the BMA.

LONDON – A no-deal Brexit would risk “catastrophic” consequences for cancer patients, other people suffering from diseases, the health workforce, and the nation’s health, British doctors warned this week.

In a briefing paper, the British Medical Association (BMA) warned that the UK’s recent scramble to prepare for a no-deal Brexit that in a worst-case scenario, a no-deal Brexit could:

  • Cause significant disruption for almost a million patients receiving treatment for rare diseases as the UK would be excluded from the European Rare Disease Network;
  • Cause delays in diagnosis and treatment;
  • End reciprocal healthcare agreements which could disrupt patient care and increase insurance costs. If 190,000 UK state pensioners currently living within the EU return to the UK, it could cost the health services between £500 million and £1 billion per year, the BMA said.
  • See fewer doctors and other medical staff, when there are already “huge shortages” of such roles, due to uncertainty over future immigration status, and confusion around the continued mutual recognition of medical qualifications across the EU.

‘Too little, too late’

NHS NurseChristopher Furlong/Getty ImagesNHS nurses in Birmingham, England.

The BMA is the UK’s largest doctors’ union and has officially called for a second Brexit referendum, warning there is “too much uncertainty on the implications for the NHS and its staff” around the country’s EU exit.

The BMA says “imperative” that the public has a vote on any final proposed Brexit deal, warning that the challenges posed by Brexit to the medical industry are “considerable,” despite some recent progress in negotiations.

The BMA’s members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a second referendum at a recent vote, and the Royal College of Nursing, which represents around half a million nurses and midwives, also supports the idea.

“The consequences of ‘no deal’ could have potentially catastrophic consequences for patients, the health workforce, services and the nation’s health,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, in a statement this week.

“The UK government has finally started planning to ensure the health sector and industry are prepared in the short term for a no deal Brexit, but this is too little, too late and quite frankly, proof that the impact on the NHS has not received the attention it deserves in the Brexit negotiations.

“Some will say we are scaremongering by warning of the dangers of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, but this is not the case. We aren’t shying away from being honest about what is at stake for health services if the UK and the EU fail to reach a deal.

“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.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.