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31.05.17

Doctors warn ‘governmental paralysis’ of Brexit a threat to public health

An influential doctors’ group has today expressed concern about the effect that Brexit may have on the nation’s public health.

A statement released by the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, alongside other public health experts, warned that changes to the political landscape in Europe and the effect of the UK’s vote to leave the EU is likely to have profound effects on the state of public health.

One expert, Professor Martin McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that the pursuit or imposition of austerity measures and the resultant rise of nationalist politics have profound implications for health, with the challenges exacerbated in the UK by the decision to leave the EU.

“Brexit poses many severe and immediate threats to the NHS, some of which are already apparent, like the loss of skilled health workers,” he said. “Looking ahead, we can expect delayed approval of new drugs, weakening of environmental standards and working conditions, and even loss of access to the medical isotopes used for diagnosis and cancer treatment.”

Prof McKee added that in the longer term the greatest threat to public health was in the damage it could inflict on the UK economy and “governmental paralysis,” given the size of the task ahead.

“For those of us living in England, and some other parts of Europe, there is much to learn from the internationalist approach being taken by Scotland to the threats that face us all,” he said.

Dr Andrew Murray, consultant to NHS Inform and the University of Edinburgh, added: “While we face many challenges to our healthcare system, the future of health is extremely exciting, and we sometimes forget how far we have come.

“The internet, smartphones, digital and social media are fairly new kids on the block but we must harness these to make a real difference to health.”

But professor Derek Bell, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, was quick to highlight that the government should act quickly to ensure that Brexit does not negatively affect the health of the country.

“Much remains to be clarified about the impact of Brexit on our healthcare system and workforce and ahead of next week’s general election, we call on the incoming government to ensure that the voice of both patients and medical professionals are recognised by policy makers at the heart of these negotiations,” he stated.

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