In November 2018 the RCGP's governing Council voted to oppose Brexit and support a Peoples' Vote on the Brexit negotiations. This decision followed an in-depth debate focussing on the potential impact of Brexit on the NHS and patient care, concluding that Brexit was likely to be harmful to the NHS and that the College should move to oppose the UK's forthcoming exit from the EU.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of Council has written to senior politicians with responsibilities for Health and Brexit outlining the College's position.

The full text of the letter [4 January 2019] is:

"I am writing to let you know that the Royal College of General Practitioners' governing Council recently passed a motion opposing the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) and in support of a second referendum on Brexit negotiations.

"We believe that at the time of the 2016 referendum the public voted without full and impartial information about the impact Brexit will have on the NHS. For that reason, we now believe that the public should have a final say on any Brexit deal, including the options of accepting the deal, rejecting the deal and remaining within the European Union.

"First and foremost, we are concerned about the potential damage to the recruitment and retention of the NHS workforce, and the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, which enables us to recruit doctors from the EEA.

"We also recognise that exiting the European Union may damage the UK's access to medicines, devices and radioisotopes. It is essential that the NHS has certainty around the regulation of drugs and medical devices and we have serious concerns that without the agreed regulatory system which the EU provides, patients could face delayed access to new medicines and devices.

"Brexit will also potentially cause damage to public health in the UK, and international cooperation on public health, as well as existing and future collaboration between scientific and medical research programmes and partnerships.

"Furthermore, leaving the European Union also has a unique impact on the health service in Northern Ireland and we are deeply concerned that Brexit will damage cross-border arrangements for healthcare between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"Reciprocal healthcare arrangements, and eligibility for the European Health Insurance Card are crucially important too for patients living in the UK – another thing that we are concerned would also potentially be damaged by our exit from the EU.

"We are a membership body representing 52,000 GPs across the UK, dedicated to ensuring high quality care. Many of our members, and our patients, will have their own strongly held opinions on our membership of the European Union. Following an in-depth debate focussing on the effects of Brexit on the NHS and patient care, our governing Council reached the view that these were likely to be so harmful that we should move to oppose the UK's forthcoming exit from the EU.

"Our College was established to encourage, foster and maintain the highest possible standards in general practice. We believe that this objective will be undermined by Brexit. It is essential that the public are fully informed about the damage exiting the EU could potentially cause to the health service. Whilst some of these may be mitigated depending on the terms of any Brexit deal, we believe that the overall effect of leaving the EU will nonetheless be harmful for patients and the NHS.

"For these reasons, the College has taken the view that we should oppose the UK's exit from the EU. I would be happy to meet with you ahead of any forthcoming debates in Parliament to discuss further."

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