Speech delivered at the Council of the European Union of Medical Specialists, 28 April 2018.

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Mr President, Secretary-General, Colleagues, Friends. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to address you again.

Thank you also to everyone, both within the wider UEMS family and within the British Medical Association, for their continued work and commitment since our last Council meeting to ensure that we do everything possible to prevent Brexit from destabilising our European institution – an institution that clearly goes from strength to strength.

We the BMA, and indeed myself on a personal level, are delighted with the outcome you have just announced Mr President that the UK, via the BMA, will retain its full membership of the European Union of Medical Specialists, post-Brexit. This allows us, for the benefit of humankind, to continue to work collaboratively with our colleagues and to act as advocates for our patients across Europe, to ensure that their health and wellbeing is properly protected, properly promoted and properly preserved.

At present – as I stand here before you less than a year before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union – this means ensuring that Brexit does not threaten the European Medical Profession nor the patients it serves.

We may be but a few doctors in this chamber today – few compared with the 1.6 million doctors this great organisation represents. But few whose ability to shape the outcome of the Brexit negotiations should not be underestimated.

Once again, Michel Barnier (the EU’s Chief Negotiator) has recently chosen to highlight the Medical Profession when speaking in the European Parliament about what has been agreed so far.

He advised Members of the European Parliament that:

doctors working before Brexit can continue to work in their host countries

and that

their professional qualifications will continue to be recognised”.

With EU funding playing a key role in the provision of cross-border healthcare in Ireland, and the ongoing delivery of such funds being a priority for the UEMS and the BMA, his advice that

both the EU and the UK will not only honour their joint commitments to PEACE and INTERREG but will also examine favourably the possibilities for future support to these programmes

further demonstrates the influence that we can exercise when working collaboratively.

Of course, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed so we have much more to do with perhaps the greatest challenge pertaining to the ongoing mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

As our medical workforces have become increasingly integrated and interdependent, the mutual recognition of professional qualifications plays a crucial role in both doctors’ professional development and in meeting varying medical workforce requirements across Europe.

Despite such benefits, it’s continuation post-Brexit is far from certain with some parts of the EU sceptical about whether this could, or should, be achieved.

Others, more pragmatic perhaps, believe that the future partnership should include ambitious provisions on the movement of people including the recognition of professional qualifications.

Securing such an outcome will not be easy but is achievable and is something that I believe to be worth striving for as we seek to minimise the impact of Brexit upon our profession.

As the next year of intensive negotiations disappears with what seems like increasing rapidity before us, in these last eleven months of negotiations it is vital for our profession and patients across Europe, that we get a Brexit deal that provides certainty for doctors and health services, and provides the protection that patients deserve.

 

  • It is important that EEA medical students should be able to stay in the UK to live, train and work, Medical students from the UK should be extended the same rights across the EEA;

 

  • Ongoing recognition of professional qualifications is key in enabling EEA doctors to work in the UK, and vice versa, to ensure the highest standards of patient safety;

 

  • We want the UK to continue to participate in European Reference Networks after Brexit to ensure that patients with rare and complex diseases across the UK and Europe get the best care possible;

 

  • Within the island of Ireland we need continuation of the open border so healthcare professionals can move freely to deliver vital cross-border health services to patients in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland;

 

  • We need continued access to EU research funding programmes as ensuring collaboration on medical research delivers benefits to both the UK and the EU, including in the discovery of new medicines;

 

  • We need close collaboration on disease surveillance, maintaining environmental and health standards, and measures to promote public health;

 

  • We need an agreement with Euratom to ensure patients in the UK get consistent and timely access to radioisotopes for cancer treatment;

 

  • We need close collaboration between the UK and the European Medicines Agency to prevent delays to new medicine and medical devices for patients in the UK and the EU;

 

  • We need a flexible immigration system, which is responsive to the needs of the health, medical research and social care sectors; and

 

  • We need permanent residence for EEA doctors, researchers and their families currently working in the UK, and for those from the UK working and living in Europe.

 

There is much to do over the next eleven months.

 

Colleagues, Brexit may affect pan-European professional migration, but we cannot allow, we cannot allow, it to impinge upon our work to ensure that we have the highest possible standards of medical training across Europe.

 

We’ve been doing so together successfully for the last 60 years and, whatever challenges our politicians throw at us, with the support of our colleagues throughout Europe within UEMS, we can look forward to an even more rewarding future together with patients, and the European medical profession, protected for that future.

 

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 to do everything possible to act as advocates for our patients to ensure their health and wellbeing is promoted and protected.

 

This is, of course, nothing short of what our patients across the continent of Europe, and of course across the World, deserve.

 

Mr President; thank you very much.

 

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Professor Andrew Rowland

Head of the United Kingdom Delegation to the European Union of Medical Specialists

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