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RCS warns of 'no deal' risks to patients

05 Sep 2019

The RCS Council is due to discuss the effects of Brexit, and of ‘no deal’ in particular, at its 12 September meeting. 

The Commons has agreed legislation which would block a ‘no deal’ Brexit on 31 October.  The bill is presently being debated in the House of Lords, and is expected to become law on Monday.

The Prime Minister insists that a revised withdrawal agreement with the EU can be agreed only if ‘no deal’ is left on the table as a negotiating tool, but 21 Conservative MPs opposed the policy, voting with the opposition.  Since the prospect of ‘no deal’ has grown, the RCS along with the Faculty of Dental Surgery have signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister, co-ordinated by the Royal College of Physicians. RCS President Professor Derek Alderson writes, ‘the implications of a no-deal exit from the EU for the NHS and wider health and care system [must be] considered at the highest levels of your government’s decision making’.  

The letter cites continuing concerns about shortages of medical supplies and the timing of a no-deal Brexit to coincide with the start of winter and the flu season. The signatories say ‘the public rightly expects candour from us, and we are simply unable to reassure patients that their health and care won’t be negatively impacted by the UK's exit from the EU.’   

Interviewed about the initiative on BBC Newsnight, Royal College of Physicians President, Andrew Goddard, told viewers, “I can’t sit here and say, ‘Don’t worry, no deal will be fine, no one is going to come to any harm, no one is going to run out of medicines.’ What we can see is we’re likely to not have enough flu vaccine, we are likely not to have the flu vaccine coverage that we’ve had in previous years, and that is likely to have an impact on the NHS.”

Concerns about medicine supply is a major political theme adduced by opponents of ‘no deal’, alongside the erection of a border between the UK and the EU in Ireland and the likelihood of a substantial reduction in the size of the UK economy.  

The Prime Minister has indicated that he will not comply with Parliament’s instructions to seek a further extension of the ‘Article 50’ EU Exit process, but prefers to hold a General Election on October 15th.  MPs would have to agree to this proposal by a two thirds majority; they refused to do so on Wednesday, but are expected to be asked again next week. When Britain does go to the polls, the NHS is likely to be a significant theme, with much debate about the impact of Brexit on its future.

We want to hear from you, our members, on this issue and how 'no deal' is likely to have an impact on hospitals, staff and patients locally. Please let us know via email: or via Twitter @RCSnews prior to 12 September.


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