Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU this morning, leaders in healthcare have begun to weigh in.
Stephen Dalton, chief executive of NHS Confederation was the first to comment saying that the impact of such a decision is “impossible to predict”.
He stressed that a “strong, nuanced agreement” with the EU, which recognises how interwoven NHS and EU policies have become is “vital”.
He said: “The NHS has broadly benefitted from being in the EU and leaving it will undoubtedly have implications which are yet to be clearly understood.
“The priorities for those who lead and are on the frontline of delivering NHS funded services are the sustainability and quality of patient care.”
He added: “The NHS’s top priority will be to adapt to the new circumstances and continue its high quality services for patients.
“The NHS Confederation, through our European Office will be working in Brussels and the UK to ensure the needs of the NHS and its patients are understood throughout this process.”
Dr Mark Porter, the British Medical Association (BMA) council chair echoed Dalton’s promise to work with the EU.
He said: “In the aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, the BMA reaffirms its commitment to working with our European partners and the European Union to safeguard the future of our profession and the patients we serve.
“We urge politicians not to play games with the UK’s health services as the country faces a new future.
“We stand together as one profession with our colleagues from Europe and across the world, with whom we live, work and study and on whom the NHS depends.”
Meanwhile, Dr Nav Chana, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, told Pulse in a personal capacity: “I would want to be very clear about what the impact will be on our workforce, particularly as we currently draw quite a large proportion of our doctors and nurses from the EU.
“We have to be very clear about some of the statements I have heard, regarding the impact on workload in general practice at the moment, and linking that to immigration issues.
“These are political statements and I don’t want to get drawn into that – but I would say don’t let the remain or Brexit campaigns distract from the fact that general practice in particular is under-resourced and if people can’t get appointments it’s not because of immigration issues, it is because of the whole way our system works and general issues around resources and funding within primary care.”
The Press Association has completed an analysis revealing that one in 20 NHS workers in England comes from the EU, which amounts to 57,608 NHS workers – 5% of the total workforce.
The Royal College of Nursing also issued a statement assuring nurses that it would continue to work closely with the EU.
A spokesperson said: “All of us share a commitment to ensuring that the nursing voice continues to be heard on a wide range of national and international nursing issues. The RCN will continue to work closely with our sister nursing organisations across Europe as we have done for many years.
“Once there is greater clarity, the RCN will take forward work to consider the impact of leaving for both nursing and the RCN, to ensure that the voice of nursing is heard in future negotiations to leave the EU.”
While the Department of Health did not release a statement, Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health tweeted: “As remainer am in agreement with Dan Hannan just now: we voted to leave, now need calm, thoughtful leadership 2 bring & keep country together.”
By Carolyn Wickware
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