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Medics voice fears over no-deal Brexit and say uncertainty ‘already impacting care’

More than two-thirds of acute and emergency medics believe a no-deal Brexit will impact their ability to deliver care – and more than half think the ongoing uncertainty has already affected their hospitals.

The findings come from a snapshot survey conducted by the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), the national body for the specialty which deals with immediate and early treatment of adult patients with a variety of medical conditions who present to hospital as emergencies.

Acute medicine receives the majority of patients admitted from A&E and helps maintain the flow of patients through emergency departments to avoid exit block, the term used when patients cannot be moved into a hospital bed.

The UK has been given an extension to the Brexit process – which was initially due to be resolved by 29 March – by the European Union until 31 October.

In response to the question ‘Do you think a no-deal Brexit will impact on our ability to deliver acute medicine?’, 72% answered yes, 8% no and 20% were unsure, while 60% said their hospitals had already been affected.

Additionally, almost half (48%) feared a managed Brexit with a deal would still cause disruption to services, with most concern around the effect on medical staffing (37%), non-medical staffing (27%) and medical supplies (25%).

Almost all respondents (90%) said they would not change their original vote if there was a second referendum.

“We have been warning for some time now about the negative impact of Brexit on the NHS and I said recently how it has acted as a smokescreen for the government over the issues engulfing frontline healthcare,” said SAM president Dr Nick Scriven, speaking at the organisation’s two-day conference – SAMontheTYNE – in Newcastle.

“These concerns have now been reinforced by many those of those in acute medicine – doctors, nurses and support staff – and sends a message that this situation is harming the delivery of services to patients.

“In our view, it is no coincidence that we are seeing continuous poor performance – with a record low again in March – and a growing staffing crisis at the same time as the withdrawal debacle bounces from one embarrassment to the next with next to no recognition of the ongoing healthcare issues in the national media

“What is particularly significant now, given where we are at, is that a large proportion have voiced concern over ongoing events, so I would urge politicians to end their dithering and, at the very least, not make this any worse than it already is for patients and healthcare professionals alike.”

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