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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Law Society of Scotland issues Brexit warning for health and social care

Written by The Press Association

Lawyers have warned about the possible impact Brexit could have on the NHS, claiming that leaving the European Union could result in delays in patients getting new medicines and also impact on the supply radioisotopes used in cancer treatment.

The Law Society of Scotland said leaving the EU "will affect many aspects of the provision of health and social care" in Britain.

With negotiations taking place ahead of the UK's departure, they stressed it is " vitally important" the access and availability of nuclear health materials is safeguarded.

As part of the Brexit process, the UK has announced its intention to leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), whose supply agency sources and provides the medical radioisotopes that are used in radiotherapy.

"Nuclear technology is used for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. British nuclear reactors cannot produce radioisotopes, which form the core material for nuclear treatment," the report said.

Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant which is under construction in Somerset will be able to produce the necessary material - but not until 2027.

The Law Society of Scotland's analysis paper said: "Withdrawal from the Euratom raises major concerns of the supply and availability of this life-saving material.

"There is a serious concern that the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer will be greatly affected by leaving the Euratom. This concern is shared by, amongst others, The Royal College of Radiologists."

As a result the report said: "It is vitally important that Brexit negotiators ensure that the access and availability of nuclear health materials is safeguarded."

Brexit could also impact on the European Medicines Agency, which is based in London and regulates medicines for both humans and animals, allowing pharmaceutical companies to make one single application to get approval for products across the EU as well as in Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein.

The EMA, which employs 900 people and is the largest EU organisation in the UK, could relocate after Brexit, with the Law Society of Scotland warning: " For the UK, as well as the loss of an organisation as a substantial employer, would be the impact of loss of access to the single market authorisation.

"This may result in additional time-consuming process, isolation and extra expense with medicinal companies choosing to relocate within an EEA (European Economic Area) country.

"A major concern is that the above would result in delays to accessing new treatments and medications."

The report also warned that the creation of new boundaries and country specific institutions could " lead to stagnation in areas such as medical research"

Collaboration across Europe has "enabled the UK to further its scientific research agenda, through its ability to access both European research talent and important sources of funding", but the report raised fears that in future relationships could "destabilise", as a result of the lack of clarity over Brexit.

And while it has been agreed the that European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) arrangements, that allow Britons to be treated in Europe, will continue for those who live in the EU, the position is "less clear" for travellers and holiday makers.

The Law Society of Scotland said: "We recommend that negotiations are given priority in this area and reciprocal and mutually beneficial arrangements for health care coverage and maintaining cross border healthcare are progressed."

SNP MSP Emma Harper said: " This is a damning report that highlights the huge problems the NHS faces due to Brexit.

"The fact that it raises the prospect of delays for UK citizens accessing new medicines, as well as repeating earlier warnings on health staff shortages, simply underlines the seriousness of the situation.

"What's particularly worrying is that months after triggering Article 50 we look no closer to solving these issues - and the clock is ticking."

A Department for Exiting the EU spokesman said: "We've been clear the Government will be focused on getting a deal that ensures continued co-operation and is in the best interests of business, citizens and patients across the EU and the UK.

"We also understand the need to give certainty to valued NHS staff from the EU.

"That is why we have made clear that the future of EU nationals, including those working in our health and care system, should be a priority in Brexit negotiations and one where we are making good progress."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Milligan / PA Wire.