Belfast Telegraph

Lives at risk if a no-deal Brexit triggers medical shortages: health chief

Warning: Professor Sally Davies
Warning: Professor Sally Davies

By Catherine Wylie

People could die as a result of a no-deal Brexit, the outgoing Chief Medical Officer for England has warned.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said it cannot be guaranteed that there will be no medical shortages if the UK crashes out of the European Union.

There are fears that leaving the EU without a deal in place could hit imports of medicine.

Last week NHS Wales unveiled a "Brexit Warehouse" to store around 1,000 extra products including medical gloves and needles of about £5m.

Dame Sally told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The health service and everyone has worked very hard to prepare.

"But I say what I've said before - that we cannot guarantee that there will not be shortages, not only in medicines but technology and gadgets and things.

"There may be deaths - we can't guarantee there won't."

Pressed whether lives are at risk, she replied firmly: "They are at risk."

Her comments come just a couple of days after the Government published a Brexit no-deal readiness report in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that he can "confidently" say the UK is prepared to leave the EU without a deal on October 31.

On the issue of health, the report claimed: "The UK will continue to play a world-leading role in health security, patient safety and medical advance after Brexit.

"Opportunities may include innovative regulation of novel advanced therapies and medicines and a streamlined approach to clinical trial reporting and conduct.

"These strengths in health research will be further supported by fast-track visas for world-leading scientists."

The report outlines plans to set up a dedicated support unit for suppliers of medical goods in the health sector, with the aim of helping to ensure that companies have the necessary customs paperwork in place for border arrangements ahead of a no-deal scenario.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank in Dublin has issued stark warnings of significant job losses in the Republic in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

A disorderly Brexit would send shocks to the exchange rate, trade, consumption and investment, leading to a major deterioration in economic conditions, it warned.

In its latest quarterly bulletin the bank forecasts 73,000 fewer jobs in Ireland over the next two years.

For the first time the Central Bank published two forecasts for the Irish economy because of the "extraordinary and unprecedented nature" of Brexit.

The bulletin reported that in the event of a Brexit deal, GDP growth is forecast to be 5% in 2019, 4.3% in 2020 and 3.9% in 2021.

A no-deal Brexit, however, is forecast to reduce GDP growth to 4.7% in 2019, 0.8% in 2020 and 1.9% in 2021.

A disorderly Brexit would adversely affect the level of employment in the economy compared to a deal scenario, it also found.

The reduction in employment growth in the no-deal forecast would imply 73,000 fewer jobs in Ireland by end 2021.

In the event of a deal, the unemployment rate is forecast to move lower, averaging 4.8% in both 2020 and 2021.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 5.8% in 2020 and 6.9% in 2021.

Bank director of economics and statistics Mark Cassidy said: "While the outlook for growth in the economy remains positive, there are significant domestic and external risks and uncertainties which threaten that outlook, most notably Brexit."

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