The Royal College of Nursing has today written to eight Westminster party leaders calling on them to support a referendum on the final Brexit deal.
A letter has been sent to the leaders of the main parties in all four countries, on behalf of the college’s 435,000 members across the UK.
“The implications of Brexit for the health and care system will be numerous”
In it, the college warned that that a “bad” Brexit deal would jeopardise safe patient care.
It stated that Brexit posed an immediate risk to the provision of safe and effective care, as well as collective efforts to improve population health.
The letter called on party leaders to help deliver a referendum on the Brexit deal, and give people the chance to make an “informed” choice and vote on decisions that will affect future generations.
It highlights some of the “significant challenges” posed by UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, including exacerbating existing long-standing problems such as workforce sustainability.
Brexit has particular implications for nursing staff providing care in areas that “interface” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, warned the RCN.
It said the letter also drew attention to “threats” such as the dilution of fair employment practices and workers’ rights, and cross-border exchange of knowledge, research and skills.
For example, it cited the UK’s membership of the European Medicines Agency, access to medicines, participation in clinical trials and research projects – all crucial to the delivery of the person-centred.
In the letter, RCN council chair Maria Trewern said: “As the debate across our membership has made clear, the implications of Brexit for the health and care system will be numerous.
“There are risks that, if not credibly addressed, may damage population health, as well as severely impact on our members’ ability to provide safe and effective care for their patients in both the short and the long term,” she said.
She added: “We have written to all political parties in these terms, as well as publicly shared the content of this letter.
“This is the next step in our campaigning activity in this area, which will expand in the months to come,” said Ms Trewarn.
The RCN is a member of the Cavendish Coalition, a group of healthcare organisations set up to influence and lobby on post-EU referendum matters.
However, the college did not advise its member to vote to vote one way or the other in the 2016 referendum, in contrast to some healthcare unions that declared a position.
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The letter has been sent to prime minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and Green Party leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley.
It has also been sent to Ian Blackford of the Scottish National Party, Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru, Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party and Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin.