Speech delivered at the Council of the European Union of Medical Specialists, Brussels, 21 October 2017

Mr President, Secretary General, colleagues.

 

Since I last addressed you the Brexit negotiations have continued with the UK scheduled to leave the European Union, not Europe, in March 2019. This is a crucial difference – it is the European Union the UK is leaving, not the continent of Europe – we’ll still be within swimming distance of our neighbours in 2019.

 

You will all recognise that the UK’s vote to leave the EU was by the narrowest of margins – 51.9% versus 48.1%. That rejection was by a referendum of the people eligible to vote in the UK.

 

That rejection is hardly an emphatic rejection of over 40 years of shared peace and prosperity – the whole of my lifetime – and it is a rejection that was most definitely not supported by the British Medical Association.

 

Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, some form of regulatory cooperation between the UK and our European partners will continue. If France and Canada can work to coordinate accelerated recognition of professional qualifications across the Atlantic Ocean, then surely the UK and our European friends won’t let the 33km of the English Channel stand in our way.

 

It all will be easier if a withdrawal agreement can be secured and a smooth transition into a future regulatory relationship delivered.

 

Yet looking at achieving that outcome I cannot help but think that all parties must recognise that a solid base for a principled diplomatic solution – with foundations built of concrete and not quicksand – is never formed by one party’s desire to hurt the other.

 

The role of the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS), and our other European partners, in helping to deliver such a principled, diplomatic outcome should not be underestimated.

 

Since we last met, and following such joint lobbying, the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group chose to highlight the ongoing uncertainty over doctors’ professional qualifications in its critique of the UK government’s negotiating position.

 

If this smooth transition cannot be delivered and the UK leaves without an agreement, then, yes, there will be problems for us to deal with.

 

The banking industry, the insurance industries, and many other well-resourced lobbies, are also pushing for the prioritisation of their concerns and it remains vital that the interests of the medical profession – so that we can continue to deliver high quality care to our patients – are not forgotten.

 

Who will work to ensure that our national governments prioritise the development and management of the new systems required to ensure that the tens of thousands (specific examples here) of European doctors practising in the UK continue to enjoy the mutual recognition of their professional qualifications?

 

I’m talking specifically about the:

 

3196 Irish doctors

2553 Greek doctors

2415 Italian doctors

2193 German doctors

1987 Romanian doctors

1717 Polish doctors

1305 Spanish doctors

1112 Hungarian doctors

1053 Czech doctors

743 Bulgarian doctors

696 Dutch doctors

388 French doctors

380 Maltese doctors

346 Slovakian doctors

308 Lithuanian doctors

270 Portuguese doctors

251 Belgian doctors

219 Austrian doctors

200 Latvian doctors

189 Croatian doctors

128 Swedish doctors

108 Swiss doctors

103 Danish doctors

47 Estonian doctors

46 Finnish doctors

34 Slovenian doctors

28 Norwegian doctors

and the

24 Icelandic doctors

 

 

who are all registered and licensed to practise medicine in the UK. Over twenty-two thousand doctors in totality.

 

Who will work to ensure that that our regulators can continue to protect our patients through the ongoing sharing of information about doctors’ fitness to practice?

 

Who will work to ensure that those European medical students studying in the UK have certainty about where they’ll be able to practice?

 

You know the answer:

 

Us;

the UEMS; and

our national members, and the constituent parts of UEMS.

 

Whatever Brexit leads to, we can only secure our profession’s interests and those of the patients we serve by working together within UEMS.

 

Brexit is changing Europe and will impact upon our profession. UEMS may need to change too if we’re to mitigate this impact and over the time between now and the Spring Council meeting we need to start thinking about how the United Kingdom can continue to play a full role in the UEMS in the future, despite the Brexit vote by the general public.

 

We need to consider and agree how the UK can continue to support the continued and exciting developments within the UEMS, whose strength continues to grow.

 

Mr President, we, as doctors, are part of a scientific community; we are part of a complex European health and social care system; and, perhaps more importantly, we are all part of communities and the societies in which those communities exist.

 

We, as doctors, have a duty – for the benefit of humankind – to work collaboratively with our colleagues, and have a moral and ethical duty to do so, to do everything possible to act as advocates for our patients to ensure their health and wellbeing is promoted and protected.

 

The British Medical Association will continue to do everything reasonably possible that we can to work within the UEMS to ensure we have the highest possible standards of medical training across Europe. This is, of course, nothing short of what our patients across the continent of Europe deserve.

 

Mr President, Secretary General, Members of Council: thank you very much.

 

 

Professor Andrew Rowland

Head of the UK Delegation to the European Union of Medical Specialists

 

 

References

http://www.gmc-uk.org/static/documents/content/2017.02.21_GMC_data_on_EEA_doctors_in_the_UK.pdf

 

 

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World Medical Association statement on Child Abuse and Neglect

Statement revised by the 68th WMA General Assembly, Chicago, United States of America, October 2017

The welfare of children is of paramount importance. Health professionals should put the welfare of children at the centre of all decision-making related to individual children and young people and act in the best interests of children in all of their interactions with children, young people, families, policy-makers and other professionals.

Following my @WCMTUK Fellowship I had the opportunity to re-draft the World Medical Association’s statement on Child Abuse and Neglect.

After discussion within the British Medical Association a re-drafted statement was agreed and this was consulted on within the World Medical Association to seek the views of consistent Members. The feedback received was used to finalise the proposed revised statement which was put to the World Medical Association General Assembly in Chicago in October 2017.

The World Medical Association has 109 consistent National Members who together represent over 10 million doctors worldwide.

I’m delighted that the proposed revisions to the statement were accepted in full by the General Assembly and the newly revised statement is now publicly available.

The World Medical Association agrees that the health, safety and wellbeing of children is incredibly important in healthy and happy societies and that health professionals have a special and unique role in the welfare of the world’s children.

The British Medical Association has worked to improve child protection measures in the UK to combat abuse, including child sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation, taking steps such as calling for more effective training programmes for all professionals dealing with children and families, among other legislative measures.

It is positive to see other national medical associations around the world will dedicate themselves to supporting the health and wellbeing of children and young people by better identifying and preventing harm and ensuring young people’s rights to a healthy and safe childhood, around the globe, are respected.

Equal protection for children

In 2014 I was awarded a @WCMTUK Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. During the travels that resulted from this Fellowship award, and a grant from the Association of Paediatric Emergency Medicine, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to the USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Hong Kong.

I was able to look at strategies we could consider in the UK to better protect children and young people from harm.

One of the key recommendations I made in my report, Living on a Railway Line, was that legislation should be introduced in the UK to prohibit physical punishment of children. This recommendation was evidence-based looking at the scientific evidence that exists regarding the effects of physical punishment of children on their health and wellbeing.

This is a recommendation I have promoted widely since Living on a Railway Line was published in October 2014.

In a truly international collaboration, Felicity Gerry QC, Marcia Stanton MSW and I wrote an academic paper in the International Journal of Children’s Rights setting out the evidence behind why children and young people deserve and need the same protections that adults are entitled to and, hence, why there should be a change in the UK law to prohibit physical punishment of children.

The four Children’s Commissioners in the UK (Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England) are on public record calling, on multiple occasions, for a change in laws to better protect children and young people.

Over recent months there has been consultation in Scotland surrounding the debate about future legislation to give equal protection to children.

The above developments are very welcome – and entirely consistent with both the findings from my Churchill Fellowship report and our academic research paper – and it looks as though Scotland may become the first country in the UK to give the equal protection that children and young people deserve.

I’ll be watching what happens in Scotland very closely and continuing to promote the scientific, academic arguments about why new legislation to protect children and young people from physical punishment is desperately needed.