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Tell public how bad Brexit could get, nurse leader challenges government

Implications: Pat Cullen
Implications: Pat Cullen

By Lisa Smyth

A leading nursing union has called for health bosses to release their latest plans to ensure patient safety in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Northern Ireland has said the public deserves to know the full implications of the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed the contents of a secret government document which revealed that lives could be put at risk as a result of failings in the NHS which may arise as a result of a no-deal Brexit.

The Department of Health's preparations for no deal include implementing measures to tackle shortages of medication and vaccines and more than 1,000 staff being unable to get to work.

Pat Cullen, the RCN's Northern Ireland director, said the report provides a coherent summary of potential issues, but "remarkably little assurance in terms of solutions".

She said the document was put together in January when the prospect of a no-deal Brexit was more remote than it appears now.

She added: "An updated version of this report is required as a matter of urgency. Nurses and other health care staff, as well as the people of Northern Ireland, have a right to know the full implications of a no-deal Brexit for our health and social care service, however unpalatable they may be. It is thoroughly unacceptable in a democratic society that this information is being kept secret in this way."

Meanwhile, Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown said the contents of the leaked document reveal how crucial a Brexit deal is.

"This report lays bare the extent to which exiting the EU will cause serious problems for patients and staff," she said.

"Unison has been demanding answers to many of the questions this report raises ever since the result of the referendum, but as we get closer to the cliff edge we are still waiting for answers.

"We cannot believe that our elected politicians would wish to put the health of the public in jeopardy. They need to finally take these warnings seriously and ensure immediately that we do not go over the no-deal cliff edge on October 31."

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