The College's position on Brexit

The College has recently signed letters calling for healthcare to be put at the heart of Brexit negotiations and expressing concerns on the implications of a no-deal exit from the EU.

The College signed a letter to the Prime Minister, along with 16 other leading health organisations, calling for the NHS and wider health and care system to be considered at the highest levels of Brexit negotiations.

Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to ask you to put patient safety and protecting the nation’s health at the heart of Brexit negotiations by inviting the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to join the ‘EU exit strategy’ committee.

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 NHS is at the heart of a healthy society: it employs over 1.2 million people, and every year it dispenses more than one billion prescriptions, serves over 170 million meals, handles 4.7 million surgical admissions and provides over 400 million face-to-face appointments. If not properly planned for, even the smallest of problems could have huge consequences for the lives and wellbeing of millions of people and our economy.

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. For example, despite welcome ongoing engagement with DHSC, we still have significant concerns about shortages of medical supplies. Delays at our borders could exacerbate current supply issues and create the very real possibility that life-saving medication and devices are delayed from making it into the UK.

The need for preparedness is compounded by the fact that we are scheduled to leave the EU, potentially on a no-deal basis, just as flu and winter season begins. Even a ‘moderate’ flu season places significant additional pressure on the NHS. Your EU exit strategy must include provision for different flu scenarios, and the Secretary of State is well placed to coordinate that.

We trust you understand our call for urgency in this matter and look forward to your response. 

Signatories

  • Professor Jo Martin, President of the Royal College of Pathologists
  • Professor Andrew Goddard, President of the Royal College of Physicians
  • Dr Taj Hassan, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine
  • Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs
  • Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • Dr Nicola H Strickland, President of the Royal College of Radiologists
  • Professor Derek Alderson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
  • Professor Mike Griffin, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
  • Professor Jackie Taylor, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
  • Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives
  • Professor Ravi Mahajan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists
  • Sandra Gidley, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
  • Professor Carrie MacEwen, President of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
  • Bronagh Scott, Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice at the Royal College of Nursing
  • Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association
  • Paul Bristow, Acting CEO of Kidney Care UK
  • Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England

Response from the Department for Health and Social Care

The College received the written response from the Department of Health and Social Care. A Government spokesperson said:

'The Government is doing everything appropriate to prepare to leave the EU on the 31st October, whatever the circumstance.

'The Department of Health and Social Care has been working closely with partners across the health and care system and industry on robust preparations.

'Patients can be reassured that our plans should ensure the supply of medicines and medical products remains uninterrupted and they will continue to receive the excellent standard of care they currently do.'

Download the letter

The College also signed a letter, which was published in the Guardian, from the Faculty of Public Health and 28 other health organisations, expressing concern over the threat of a no-deal Brexit 'exacerbating the devastating consequences of health inequalities'.

Letter in the Guardian

We, the undersigned, express concern over the increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit and the risk this poses to public health. We have sought to mitigate the very real risk of Brexit exacerbating the devastating consequences of health inequalities, and are concerned about the impact that a no-deal Brexit would have on the public health of all four nations of the United Kingdom, including placing at risk the Good Friday agreement and the peace and stability it has brought to Ireland.

Brexit is proceeding at a time when the long-term improvement in life expectancy has slowed and, for some age groups, gone into reverse, while the most vulnerable in our population face growing insecurity of income, employment and even food. We believe that all of these would be exacerbated by a no-deal Brexit.

We now look to the current government to:

  • Confirm its continued commitment to public health protections and standards as Britain leaves the EU, recognising that leaving without a deal is incompatible with its commitment to 'do no harm'.
  • Publish all assessments it has undertaken of the impact of different Brexit scenarios on health.
  • Establish a system for monitoring any impacts of Brexit on health going forward.

Signatories

  • Prof Maggie Rae President, Faculty of Public Health
  • Dr Peter English Chair, BMA public health medicine committee
  • Alison Cox Director of cancer prevention, Cancer Research UK
  • Paul Farmer CEO, Mind
  • Chris Askew CEO, Diabetes UK
  • Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard President, Royal College of General Practitioners
  • Shirley Cramer CEO, Royal Society of Public Health
  • Prof Jo Martin President, Royal College of Pathologists
  • Michael Burdon President, Royal College of Ophthalmologists
  • Prof Michael Griffin President, Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh
  • Prof Jackie Taylor President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
  • Gil Walton CEO, Royal College of Midwives
  • Dr Margaret Stark President, Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine
  • Dr Asha Kasliwal President, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare
  • Dr Andrew Fraser Chair, Scottish Directors of Public Health
  • Prof Martin McKee Past president, European Public Health Association
  • Andy Burman CEO, British Dietetic Association
  • Sharon White CEO, School and Public Health Nurses Association
  • Prof Hazel Inskip President, Society of Social Medicine
  • Prof Tamara Hervey Professor of law, Sheffield University
  • Anne Godfrey CEO, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
  • Katherine Severi CEO, Institute of Alcohol Studies
  • Pamela Healy CEO, British Liver Trust 
  • Paul Bristow Acting CEO, Kidney Care UK
  • Sarah Hughes CEO, Centre for Mental Health
  • Kath Dalmeny CEO, Sustain
  • Jeremy Hughes CEO, Alzheimer’s Society
  • Deborah Arnott CEO, ASH
  • Sheila Duffy CEO, ASH Scotland