Dr Mary McCarthy: A second vote is vital for sake of vulnerable NHS

Over the last two years, there has been a slow drip of information about the cost of leaving a trade agreement that the UK has been a party to since 1975.

During that time, new treaties have been made, new acts amended and human rights further defined. The UK has had a significant input into all of these processes.

During the last few months that slow drip of information has become a flood as more information is provided about the cost, not just monetary, but social and reputational, of triggering Article 50.

Some of this information has been released very reluctantly, like the legal advice that has only emerged this week. Some has been released by non-government organisations and medical bodies, like the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Royal College of Physicians.

These medical bodies have made these public statements on the grounds that they have a duty to warn the public, in the same way that they would warn them of an epidemic or the approach of a new virus.

They warn of potential drug shortages, of difficulties over radioisotopes which are used both for diagnosis and for treating cancer, and of the possible loss of European medical and nursing staff who are working in GP surgeries and hospital wards.

Many of these European medical staff have worked in this country for decades, contributing to medical research as well as providing medical expertise and skill to the UK’s sick and frail people.


Only last week, the Health Secretary issued information on a consultation regarding the supply of medicine in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The government said medicine supply chains could be disrupted for as long as six months and while it is good they are finally taking this issue seriously, with just over 100 days to go, very little time is left to fully prepare for this eventuality.

Indeed, it is very concerning how little is offered in the way of detail in these proposals. As the chair of the BMA GP committee Dr Richard Vautrey said, the public should be given a final say on the deal, given that we know how catastrophic Brexit could be for patients, the NHS workforce and the health of Britain and Europe.

It seems a shame that all the facts, the advantages and disadvantages, the benefits and the losses, were not explained before the referendum as they have become much more apparent now.

If the government is confused about their decision, is it any wonder that voters are also confused?

Although it is uncertain to say what the people would decide if given the chance to vote, at least this time they would be a lot more informed about the reality of what leaving the EU would mean for them.

* Dr Mary McCarthy is chair of the local medical committee and represents Shropshire, North Staffordshire and South Staffordshire on the General Practitioners Committee of the BMA. She has worked at Belvidere Surgery in Shrewsbury for more than 20 years.

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