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Brexit, wherever next?

Uncertainty has been the theme of the past few months, as it became clear that the EU exit deal Theresa May’s government negotiated would not make it over the necessary parliamentary hurdles. We now have a new Prime Minister, and his clearly stated ambition that the UK should leave the EU on 31 October come what may.

The RCP has not shied away from putting patient safety and the NHS workforce at the centre of the Brexit debate. We have been clear that a no-deal Brexit places the safe care of patients at risk.

As the new government seeks to renegotiate the UK's exit from the EU, our challenge to government remains the same. The first thing this new government must do is be clear that the international and EU staff that make up a significant and vital part of our NHS and social care workforce are highly valued. It should also go one step further by making the UK a destination of choice for clinicians looking to work abroad.

We remain concerned that no matter how much government and industry preparation there is, supply issues, medicine and medical devices shortages are likely to be exacerbated by a no-deal exit. We value and appreciate the engagement we’ve had with both the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care - it is clear that both are working hard to minimise the risks associated with a no-deal Brexit.

But the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated. While workforce and medicine shortages are our main concerns, there are outstanding issues on medical research, collaboration, reciprocal healthcare arrangements and air quality to address.

In particular, there needs to be an urgent focus on securing an agreement that maintains the free flow of patients, doctors, other healthcare workers and supplies between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Anything that impedes access across the border is likely to impact on patient care.

We will continue to ensure that the voices of our members are heard as the debate continues and 31 October draws ever nearer. We have this week written to the new health secretary and the ministerial team to express our concerns.

Next week we will introduce a Brexit email bulletin for all RCP committee members. If you’d like to receive it, please email us via policy@rcplondon.ac.uk.