Medical unions warn crashing out of the EU could ‘devastate’ the NHS
‘Take no deal off the table’: 11 medical unions warn the Government crashing out of the EU could ‘devastate’ the NHS and cause fatal drug shortages
- 11 health workers’ unions have issued a joint statement opposing no-deal Brexit
- They said tens of thousands of non-British staff could be left ‘in limbo’
- Among the signatories were the British Medical Association and Unison
A no-deal Brexit could devastate the NHS by triggering staff and medicine shortages and must be avoided, medical unions have warned.
Leading health workers’ organisations have issued a joint statement calling on the Government to ‘take no deal off the table’ and accusing it of being irresponsible.
The stern caution comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed he intends to suspend Parliament for most of September and October to push ahead with Brexit plans.
If this goes ahead it will slash the amount of time MPs have left to try and prevent no-deal, making it more likely the UK will drop out of the EU on October 31.
Unions including the British Medical Association, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing all urged the Government to protect NHS workers from abroad in its plans.
A no-deal Brexit would ‘devastate’ the NHS, leading medical unions have warned, because it could lead to drug shortages and leave tens of thousands of non-British staff ‘in limbo’
The statement read: ‘A no-deal could cause significant disruption to the supply of medicine, lasting up to six months.
‘Many medicines, including life-saving agents for cancer diagnosis and therapy, cannot be stockpiled and, for those that can, stockpiles could run out.
‘These kinds of shortages and delays can be fatal. No responsible government should take that risk.’
Alongside the BMA, Unison and RCN – which have around 1.5million members between them – the statement was also signed by GMB, Unite, TUC, the Chartered Institute of Physiotherapy, Society of Radiographers, British Orthoptic Society and the British Dietetic Association.
Medical experts have repeatedly warned about the potential for drug shortages if the UK doesn’t set up import/export deals before leaving the European Union.
The concerns have been swamped among numerous other ‘Project Fear’ warnings raised by people opposed to leaving the union without a deal.
But the caution has resurfaced now the threat of no-deal looms large with Mr Johnson adamant that the UK must leave by Hallowe’en.
As well as interrupting medicine shipments from the continent, an abrupt change to visas and residency laws could impact the the 153,000 non-British NHS staff.
Some 65,000 health service employees are EU nationals and their rights to stay and work in the country are at risk.
‘TAKE NO DEAL OFF THE TABLE’: THE UNIONS’ STATEMENT IN FULL
Together we represent more than a million health and care staff.
They’re the lifeblood of our health service, consistently going above and beyond to make sure we can all rely on world-class care when we need it most.
A no-deal Brexit could devastate the NHS and social care. And if this government goes ahead with it, health and care workers will be on the frontline.
As the Yellowhammer report makes clear, a no deal could cause significant disruption to the supply of medicine, lasting up to six months.
Many medicines, including life-saving agents for cancer diagnosis and therapy, cannot be stockpiled and for those that can, stockpiles could run out.
These kinds of shortages and delays can be fatal. No responsible government should take that risk.
We have already seen thousands of EU staff leave since 2016. In the event of a no deal, tens of thousands of NHS and care workers from the EU would be left in limbo, intensifying the largest staffing crisis in the services’ history.
Ministers must unequivocally guarantee the right of European health and care staff to continue to live and work in the UK.
Finally, we know that the stronger our economy, the more funding we can dedicate to the NHS and social care.
Treasury assessments show that a no-deal scenario would shrink our economy by £90bn, reducing the money available for the NHS and other vital public services.
After a decade of austerity, health and social care budgets across the country are under immense pressure.
With many care providers already in difficulty, a hit to the public finances could have additional knock-on consequences for the NHS.
With waiting times rising, operations being cancelled and yet another winter crisis looming, the health service cannot weather a long-term economic shock.
We call on the government to take no deal off the table.
- Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC
- Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON
- Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair, British Medical Association
- Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing
- Gill Walton, General Secretary, Royal College of Midwives
- Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB
- Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, Unite
- Karen Middleton, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Physiotherapy
- Richard Evans, Chief Executive, Society of Radiographers
- Sam Aitkenhead, General Secretary, British Orthoptic Society
- Annette Mansell-Green, Head of employment rights, British Dietetic Association
The unions’ statement said thousands of overseas staff had already left since the 2016 referendum and continued: ‘In the event of a no-deal, tens of thousands of NHS and care workers from the EU would be left in limbo, intensifying the largest staffing crisis in the service’s history.
‘Ministers must unequivocally guarantee the right of European health and care staff to continue to live and work in the UK.’
An ongoing staff crisis already has the NHS short of around 100,000 staff, according to the King’s Fund think-tank.
And the health service desperately needs more money, with some concerned the £20.5bn yearly boost promised by Theresa May will only stem losses and not be enough to improve care.
‘Treasury assessments show that a no-deal scenario would shrink our economy by £90 billion, reducing the money available for the NHS and other vital public services,’ the statement said.
‘After a decade of austerity, health and social care budgets across the country are under immense pressure.
‘With waiting times rising, operations being cancelled and yet another winter crisis looming, the health service cannot weather a long-term economic shock.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘As part of a responsible Government, the department is doing everything appropriate to prepare for Brexit.
‘We want to reassure patients that we should be fully prepared for leaving on October 31 whatever the circumstances.
‘We are taking all appropriate steps, meaning our plans should ensure the supply of medicines and medical products remains uninterrupted when we leave the EU.
‘And we have been crystal clear that we want our hard-working EU staff to stay in the UK and continue to perform vital roles across the NHS and social care sector.’
He added: ‘We’ve also recently committed £1.8billion for the NHS, including funding for new hospital upgrades, and the record healthcare funding increases will continue following Brexit, most notably the extra £33.9billion every year by 2023-24 through the NHS Long Term Plan.’
LEADING INSULIN MANUFACTURER STOCKPILES AHEAD OF BREXIT
Britain’s main supplier of insulin said last September it would be stockpiling the medicine in case Brexit disrupts the international supply chain.
Around 4.6million people in the UK are thought to have diabetes and many of them rely on insulin to stay healthy.
Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk supplies more than half of the UK’s insulin and revealed it would import enough of the vital medication to last four months.
The move came just weeks after medical experts warned millions of diabetics’ health would be at risk if there was an insulin shortage after Brexit.
Novo Nordisk said it is committed to making sure its patients’ health is not affected.
The company said at the time it planned to have built up at least a 16-week reserve of insulin by January this year.
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