No-Deal Brexit Poses Grave Risk to Patients, Health Leaders Warn

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. crashing out of the European Union without a deal would be hazardous to patients’ health, a who’s-who of public-health leaders warned in a letter.

Government contingency plans probably won’t cover all the possible problems or be enough to help all the people affected, the group warned in the letter, sent to Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday and posted publicly online. Potential repercussions from a failure to make a deal include staffing shortages and regulatory roadblocks as well as supply issues and the long-term problem of the U.K. missing out on pan-European research and public-health initiatives, the letter said.

“We are urging you to prevent the U.K. from leaving the European Union without a negotiated deal,” said the signatories, who include David Nicholson, the former chief executive officer of the National Health Service, and Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal. “We are increasingly alarmed at the risks.”

A drumbeat of warnings from U.K. health and science leaders against a no-deal Brexit is quickening as May enters the final weeks of negotiations before the deadline at the end of March. Officials on both sides of the Brexit talks have signaled a quick breakthrough is unlikely. The EU expects May to ask for a three-month delay to exit day, people familiar with the situation have said.

The visa system that Brexit would impose threatens the “backbone” of scientific research in the U.K., Francis Crick Institute Director Paul Nurse said in an emailed statement on Friday. “If British science is to succeed after Brexit, we need to keep the door open.”

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