No-deal could deepen NHS staff crisis and cause ‘fatal’ drugs shortages – unions

Health union leaders have joined forces to issue a strong warning that a no-deal Brexit could “devastate” the NHS.

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.

The officials warned that no-deal could lead to shortages of vital medicines.

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 union 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.

Dave Prentis (pictured), 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.”

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 £1.8 billion for the NHS, including funding for new hospital upgrades, and the record healthcare funding increases will continue following Brexit, most notably the extra £33.9 billion every year by 2023-24 through the NHS Long Term Plan.”

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