Brexit concerns for Northern Ireland Health Service

By agency reporter
March 15, 2018

The importance of negotiating a Brexit deal that secures ongoing freedom of movement and recognition for medical qualifications obtained outside the UK, have been highlighted as key concerns in a new briefing from the British Medical Association. 

In the briefing, the BMA warns that a return to a hard border could put the already pressurised health system in Northern Ireland under more strain, deterring cross border workers and making it harder to retain healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland. 

Speaking about the briefing, BMA Northern Ireland Council chair Dr John D Woods said: “If we do not secure ongoing freedom of movement then we run a real risk that staffing gaps in Northern Ireland will increase. We already do not have enough doctors here, and a hard border could make that situation even worse. 

“A hard border also puts at risk current cross border health services in primary care, cancer services and paediatric cardiac surgery.”

There are a number of areas in healthcare where cross-border service arrangements have been established to provide high quality, safe care for patients. Dr Woods said adequate measures must be put in place to ensure this continue. 

“Co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been crucial in facilitating and delivering these services whilst also ensuring that highly skilled clinicians can be attracted and retained in Northern Ireland. It is vital that these health services are not destabilised during, or after, the Brexit process,” he added.

The BMA has also highlighted the possible impact Brexit could have on medical students and their subsequent employment choices. 

Dr Woods: “There is a long history of doctors gaining their medical qualification in the Republic of Ireland and later moving to practice medicine in Northern Ireland. Currently about nine per cent of doctors here received their degree outside of Northern Ireland and the majority of these are from the Republic of Ireland. 

“Medical students from the Republic of Ireland also undertake placements in Northern Ireland, and, if the medical school at University of Ulster goes ahead it would be expected that clinical placements they undertake as part of their studies would be on both sides of the border.

“This flexibility means that medical students from the Republic of Ireland frequently choose to develop their career in Northern Ireland, and we need this to continue in order to grow our workforce here."

* Read the BMA's full Brexit Briefing Paper on Northern Ireland here

* BMA https://www.bma.org.uk/

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