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The heads of Britain’s health unions have today (Thursday) warned that a no-deal Brexit could “devastate the NHS”. 

In a joint statement – signed by 12 organisations including the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, UNISON, GMB, Unite and TUC – they call on the government to “take no deal off the table”. 

The health leaders warn that no deal could lead to vital medicine shortages: 

“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 health leaders warn that no deal could intensify the NHS’ staffing crisis: 

“We have already seen thousands of EU staff leave 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 services' history.  

“Ministers must unequivocally guarantee the right of European health and care staff to continue to live and work in the UK.” 

The health leaders warn that the NHS cannot weather a long-term economic shock 

“Treasury assessments show that a no-deal scenario would shrink our economy by £90bn, 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.” 

The full statement reads:  

Together we represent more than a million health and care staff.  

They’re the lifeblood of our health service, consistently going above and beyond to make sure we can all rely on world-class care when we need it most.  

A no-deal Brexit could devastate the NHS and social care. And if this government goes ahead with it, health and care workers will be on the frontline. 

As the Yellowhammer report makes clear, 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. 

We have already seen thousands of EU staff leave 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 services' history.  

Ministers must unequivocally guarantee the right of European health and care staff to continue to live and work in the UK. 

Finally, we know that the stronger our economy, the more funding we can dedicate to the NHS and social care. 

Treasury assessments show that a no-deal scenario would shrink our economy by £90bn, 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 many care providers already in difficulty, a hit to the public finances could have additional knock-on consequences for the NHS. 

With waiting times rising, operations being cancelled and yet another winter crisis looming, the health service cannot weather a long-term economic shock. 

We call on the government to take no deal off the table. 

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC 
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON 
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair, British Medical Association 
Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing 
Gill Walton, General Secretary, Royal College of Midwives 
Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB 
Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, Unite 
Karen Middleton, Chief Executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy 
Richard Evans, Chief Executive, Society of Radiographers 
Sam Aitkenhead, General Secretary, British Orthoptic Society 
Annette Mansell-Green, Head of employment rights, British Dietetic Association 
Steve Jamieson - General Secretary, College of Podiatry

ENDS 

Editors note
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