No-deal Brexit would be 'catastrophic' for NHS, warn doctors

The British Medical Association warns that 'no part of the health service will be left unscathed' by no-deal Brexit.

    The BMA asked the government to urgently answer more than 40 questions related to health policy [File: Neil Hall/Reuters]
    The BMA asked the government to urgently answer more than 40 questions related to health policy [File: Neil Hall/Reuters]

    Doctors have warned that if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a deal, it will push the country's National Health Service (NHS) "to the brink" as it prepares for winter. 

    The British Medical Association warned in a briefing paper on Monday that a departure from the EU on October 31 without an agreement could have "catastrophic" consequences for doctors, patients and services at a time when the NHS is already struggling to cope with rising demand.

    In recent years, the NHS has experienced near-annual crises during the winter months when demand for services spike as cold weather, flu and higher levels of respiratory illnesses put hospitals under strain. 

    The paper said "no part of the health service will be left unscathed" if the UK crashes out of the EU, citing the supply of medicines, patient access to care and the impact on the health workforce - which is heavily reliant on non-UK citizens - as examples. 

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    The BMA asked the government to urgently answer more than 40 questions related to health policy, ranging from what advice the government will give doctors in the event of a medicine shortage, to how current cross-border services between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is not, would be sustained and developed. 

    "Given the risks that Brexit, and a no-deal Brexit poses to the NHS and the nation's health, the BMA believes every possible step must be taken to avoid no deal.

    "It is vital the public has the final say on any Brexit proposed deal," the paper read.

    The UK's new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has taken a hardline approach to seeking a withdrawal agreement with the EU, promising to leave the bloc with or without a deal by the October 31 deadline.

    On Wednesday, the UK's Brexit turmoil reached new heights when Johnson requested a suspension of Parliament, prompting a constitutional crisis.

    A standard move for new governments, this prorogation is controversial as it leaves MPs with considerably less time to debate any Brexit agreement or pass laws to cushion the blow of a no-deal scenario. 

    Thousands of people have taken to the streets in London to protest the move, which has been approved by Queen Elizabeth II as is standard. 

    The approval allows Parliament to break beginning between September 9 and 12, until October 14. 

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News