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Our medical profession overwhelmingly backs staying in EU to protect health service's future

letter of the day: EUROPE VOTE

Published 23/06/2016

Since qualifying in medicine at Queen's University, Belfast, over 30 years ago, I've spent most of my career outside Northern Ireland, much of it researching European health policy. I'm back this week and have been amazed by some of the arguments being put forward by those who argue for Brexit.

The claim that the UK sends £350m each week to the EU is simply nonsense. Not only do we get much of it back, it also pays for many important functions, such as food safety, medicines approvals and infection disease surveillance that we would otherwise have to do ourselves, but much less efficiently (even assuming we could find the people with these scarce skills).

Immigrants do not place a burden on the health service. In much of the UK, if you see an EU migrant in a hospital they are most likely to be treating you. The health service couldn't survive without them.

Our medical schools, including Queen's, would suffer enormously, with every British university declaring its support for Remain.

In the past few days, we have seen over 70 former presidents of medical royal colleges, the three leading British medical and scientific journals and over 5,000 scientists pledge their support for Remain.

Indeed, as the British Medical Journal noted, it could not find a single responsible medical organisation supporting Brexit.

The problems for Northern Ireland would be even greater - given what has been achieved in developing cross-border health co-operation; those who think the border would remain open are deluding themselves.

I know that some supporters of Brexit have had enough of experts, but most people, when they are ill, will trust their doctor. At least, when it comes to the future of the health service, the overwhelming support of the medical profession for remaining in the EU should not be dismissed lightly.

PROFESSOR MARTIN MCKEE CBE

Professor of European Public Health,

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Belfast Telegraph

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