Brexit will harm both NHS and public's health say doctors as BMA backs Final Say campaign

British Medical Association says failing to give patients an informed decision on their care would see doctors being struck off as study reveals widespread concern about harm to NHS from bad deal

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Thursday 02 August 2018 10:22 BST
Brexsplainer: Living standards, wages and prices

UK doctors believe Brexit will be devastating to the NHS and the nation’s health, a study has found, as the body representing more than 160,000 medics and students backed The Independent’s call for a Final Say on the deal.

A comprehensive poll of nearly 1,200 UK doctors published in the BMJ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health on Monday found 83 per cent thought leaving the EU would hurt the NHS.

The average response from doctors when asked how serious the effect will be on the NHS, with zero being the worst impact imaginable and 10 being the best result, was a two.

“Doctors are amongst the best placed people to understand the impact of political decisions on the NHS,” the study’s lead author Dr Kate Mandeville, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said.

“On Brexit their opinion is very clear: Brexit is bad for the nation’s health.”

The Independent alongside MPs and organisations of all political stripes is arguing that the public should be given a vote on the final terms of the Brexit deal.

Nearly 400,000 people have signed the Final Say petition since it was launched less than a week ago.

The campaign has now been backed by the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents 160,000 UK doctors and around 20,000 students.

Its members backed a second referendum at a recent vote, after similar calls from the Royal College of Nursing, which represents nearly half a million nurses, midwives and trainees. The BMA has been critical of the government’s failure to make clear the impact of Brexit on the 10 per cent of NHS doctors from EU countries, as well as nurses, social care workers and their patients.

The health service workforce is already stretched to breaking point by eight years of Tory austerity with “grim” official figures revealing there were 100,000 unfilled posts last year.

Since the vote came through the government has admitted plans to stockpile medicines to avert shortages. While there are fears over access to radioactive materials used in cancer treatment and medical scanners, and future research projects and new drugs.

“The public must have the opportunity to make an informed decision”, the BMA’s Brexit lead Dr Andrew Dearden told The Independent. “Doctors are criticised all the time for not giving people enough information to make their decisions, if we use jargon or don’t spend enough time on it.”

“This is the ultimate informed decision. This is the one where people need all of the information and time to assimilate it before they choose what they would like to happen.”

“If I made someone make this important a decision with the amount of information the government currently give us, I’d be struck off.”

Dr Dearden said the Final Say, which The Independent is calling for, is exactly what their membership voted in support of.

“If I say you’ve got a lump on your liver, then we do a scan and you’re riddled from top to bottom, the treatment changes. You can’t say we have to stick by that treatment decision now.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We want a deal with the EU that is good for the UK and good for the health service. That is why we have continued to work closely with the European Union to ensure there is minimal disruption to the NHS after we leave.

“Alongside that, we are continuing to work with industry in the unlikely event of a no deal to ensure patients can continue to receive top quality care.”

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