Health union leaders have issued an urgent warning that a no-deal Brexit could ‘devastate’ the NHS and cause potentially ‘fatal’ shortages and delays.
In a joint statement – signed by 11 organisations including the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, Unison, GMB, Unite and the TUC – they called on the government to take no-deal off the table.
They warned that no-deal could lead to delays and shortages in vital medicines and treatments.
The statement said: “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.”
The leaders also warned that leaving the EU without a deal could intensify the staffing “crisis” in the NHS, adding that thousands of EU staff had already left 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 service’s history.
“Ministers must unequivocally guarantee the right of European health and care staff to continue to live and work in the UK.
“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.
“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,” said the statement.
The no-deal Brexit contingency planning of 35 NHS trusts – which the government had tried to keep under wraps – previously revealed huge concerns for staffing, medicine supply, research and costs.
Revealed: the ‘terrifying’ NHS Brexit planning the government doesn’t want you to seeResponding to the latest call, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “Boris Johnson is setting a timebomb for the NHS. The promises of more cash for the health service made during the referendum were just empty words.
“No-deal will instead leave the NHS gasping for breath, creating chaos for the hard-working staff and disaster for patients.”
Labour MP Dr Paul Williams, who was formerly a GP, said that the statement comes at a “critical time” as the government threatens to “use the Queen as a vehicle to suspend parliament”.
“It is incumbent on all MPs to prevent this undemocratic move, which could lead to medicine shortages and ward closures up and down the country,” added the MP, who supports the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign.
“If no deal is forced through, it will lead to the mother of all winter crises. We must block it.”