A NO-DEAL Brexit on October 31 will have a devastating impact on the NHS as services prepare for the onslaught of winter pressures, a leading doctors’ union has warned.

In a briefing paper published today, the British Medical Association (BMA) says exiting the EU without an agreement on Halloween could ravage the NHS.

Entitled A health service on the brink: dangers of a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit, it states the “NHS is already routinely overwhelmed by seasonal pressures” and how “the addition of another, complicating factor is certain to dramatically exacerbate that problem”.

BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “Cancelled operations, missed cancer treatment targets and patients in corridors waiting for hours on end to be seen; recent winters have seen unprecedented scenes unfold in our hospitals, GP surgeries and across the NHS, with patients suffering and staff under increasing pressure as resources and capacity struggle to keep up with rocketing demand.

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“Add to that chaos a No-Deal Brexit, and the disintegration of the health service becomes an ever more real prospect.”

The briefing paper also sets out a number of questions the BMA thinks the Government should urgently answer. These include whether the Government can guarantee that patient safety will not be compromised as a result of No Deal, and if Britain does leave the bloc without an agreement what advice will be given to doctors if there is a medicine shortage.

The paper’s publication comes after health union leaders, including the BMA, joined forces last month to issue a warning that a No-Deal Brexit could “devastate” the NHS.

In a joint statement – signed by 11 organisations including the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, Unison, GMB, and Unite – they called on the Government to rule out No-Deal and warned it could lead to shortages of vital medicines. Nagpaul added: “The BMA has been clear of the danger that Brexit poses to the NHS, its staff and patients – a No-Deal will severely damage our health service and the nation’s health.

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“From disruption to essential medicine supplies, patient healthcare and the loss of highly skilled doctors, to the potential return of a hard border in Northern Ireland, no area of health will be left unscathed by a No-Deal. The consequences will be catastrophic.

“We understand the Government is about to begin a campaign telling the public to ‘Get Ready’ for a No-Deal, but with mere weeks until we potentially crash out, there are still urgent questions for ministers to answer, showing how far from ‘ready’ the NHS really is.

“What guarantees can be made that radioisotopes – vital for cancer treatment and diagnosis – will continue to be imported into the UK without delay in the event of No Deal?

“What actions will the Government take to ensure that economic benefits are not given priority over the nation’s health in a rush to secure trade agreements?

“Given the dangers, every possible step must be taken to avoid it.

The public deserve the right to make an informed choice on leaving the EU. Give them the final say on Brexit.”