A senior doctor in Northern Ireland has spoken of the confusion in the region about the impact of Brexit on health services.
Under the Brexit deal, Northern Ireland is to have special status, allowing it to retain close links with Ireland and leading to border checks for goods crossing the Irish Sea. The British Medical Association Northern Ireland spoke of its concerns about outstanding issues that need to be resolved.
Dr Tom Black, BMA Northern Ireland Council chair, warned that as Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to share a land border with Europe, that unique position presents ongoing uncertainty and insecurity for the delivery of healthcare.
“One of the key issues in resolving our health crisis will be the recruitment and retention of doctors and other healthcare staff,” he said. “Freedom of movement has enabled doctors and other healthcare staff to travel, work and teach across Europe, letting those from the EU to both contribute to and learn from the NHS, while UK-trained clinicians have been able to share their skills in other European nations. We want to see that continue particularly across the island of Ireland.”
Dr Black said current cross border health services must be able to continue and should also expand and warned that the practicalities around the transport of medicines over the border still needs to be resolved. Replacement funding for EU-funded services also need to be found.
“We also need to ensure the supply of vital medicines are not disrupted, protecting collaborative relationships with our neighbours on medical research, and introducing a flexible immigration system,” he added.