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Vote Leave 'game-playing' over funding pledge on NHS, doctors' leaders say

Published 20/06/2016

Vote Leave has pledged to fund the NHS with money currently sent to the EU
Vote Leave has pledged to fund the NHS with money currently sent to the EU

Claims that the NHS would get billions of pounds extra funding if Britain votes to leave the EU are "farcical", doctors' leaders will say.

The remarks made by the Vote Leave campaign are "irresponsible", the leader of the British Medical Association (BMA) is expected to say as he condemns "continental game-playing" with the NHS.

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA's council, will open the doctors' union's annual meeting in Belfast by admonishing some remarks about the health service by the Vote Leave campaign.

While the BMA has said it remains neutral on Thursday's vote, Dr Porter will say the NHS would not exist without the contribution of medics from overseas.

Referring to claims about additional funding for the NHS in the event the UK votes to leave the EU, Dr Porter will say the claims are "farcical and fatuous", adding: "It's beyond irresponsible. It relies on the unknowable assumption that the United Kingdom's economy will be the same size, and the money would still be available. It is a promise that has been proven to be based on fantasy figures, but it is maintained as a slogan designed to deceive.

"And further, do we really believe that some of the most ardent, fanatical and dogmatic supporters of austerity are suddenly desperate to increase public spending if only they had the chance? That the only thing holding them back from investing in the people's health before now, has been saving it up as a mammoth bribe?

"Instead we have a promise, made by senior politicians, of money they don't know they can find, and probably no inclination to spend if they stumbled across it.

"The NHS deserves better than that. It's not a logo to misuse on a leaflet or a bus."

He will add: "We've warned before about politicians playing games with the health service. Here we see game-playing on a truly continental scale."

On immigration and the health service, he will add: "It has been implied that those who come to this country take from us, or threaten us. 'Close our borders' has been the call, keep out the Europeans and while we're at it, people from beyond Europe's borders, whether seeking refuge or with much to offer to our society, or both.

"Anyone who attacks the contribution to this country of people from around the world, attacks us all. They attack many of us personally, but they attack every one of us, because the health service we love would not exist without their contribution.

"We are one profession. And that means you, who trained in India, you, from Pakistan, you, from Nigeria, from Poland, from Germany, from South Africa, from every single country that makes the world's greatest health service a health service that the world has built.

"The health service would be poorer without you. There might not even be a health service without you."

Other issues that are expected to be debated at the BMA's annual representative meeting in Belfast include concerns about staff morale, privatisation, NHS funding and reduced hospital bed numbers.

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