The UK government should confirm its commitment that Brexit should do no harm to public health

Our College has joined with a range of health organisations to publish a public letter calling on the UK government to confirm its commitment that Brexit should do no harm to public health, and that it should publish assessments for the impact of Brexit on health and establish a monitoring system for health impacts.

The UK government should confirm its commitment that Brexit should do no harm to public health

Our College has joined with a range of health organisations to publish a public letter calling on the UK government to confirm its commitment that Brexit should do no harm to public health, and that it should publish assessments for the impact of Brexit on health and establish a monitoring system for health impacts.

Our College has joined with a range of health organisations to publish a public letter calling on the UK government to confirm its commitment that Brexit should do no harm to public health, and that it should publish assessments for the impact of Brexit on health and establish a monitoring system for health impacts. The full letter has been printed in the Guardian, and states:

In May 2018, after a campaign led by the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) and supported by other medical royal colleges, faculties and health organisations, the government confirmed that the current European Union public health duty to ensure a high level of health in all policies would remain after the UK leaves the EU. Translated into the context of Brexit, this duty to “do no harm” guaranteed that there would be no rollback of public health protections and standards now or in the future.

In a letter in the Guardian (21 April 2018), the FPH and others welcomed government reassurances that the public’s health would be protected as we left the EU. We noted, though, that ministers could only speak for the government of the time.

We, the undersigned, express concern over the increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit and the risk this poses to public health. We have sought to mitigate the very real risk of Brexit exacerbating the devastating consequences of health inequalities, and are concerned about the impact that a no-deal Brexit would have on the public health of all four nations of the United Kingdom, including placing at risk the Good Friday agreement and the peace and stability it has brought to Ireland.

Brexit is proceeding at a time when the long-term improvement in life expectancy has slowed and, for some age groups, gone into reverse, while the most vulnerable in our population face growing insecurity of income, employment and even food. We believe that all of these would be exacerbated by a no-deal Brexit.

We now look to the current government to:

  • Confirm its continued commitment to public health protections and standards as Britain leaves the EU, recognising that leaving without a deal is incompatible with its commitment to “do no harm”.
  • Publish all assessments it has undertaken of the impact of different Brexit scenarios on health.
  • Establish a system for monitoring any impacts of Brexit on health going forward.

Prof Maggie Rae President, Faculty of Public Health
Prof Jackie Taylor President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
Dr Peter English Chair, BMA public health medicine committee
Alison Cox Director of cancer prevention, Cancer Research UK
Paul Farmer CEO, Mind
Chris Askew CEO, Diabetes UK
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard President, Royal College of General Practitioners
Shirley Cramer CEO, Royal Society of Public Health
Prof Jo Martin President, Royal College of Pathologists
Michael Burdon President, Royal College of Ophthalmologists
Prof Michael Griffin President, Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh
Gil Walton CEO, Royal College of Midwives
Dr Margaret Stark President, Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine
Dr Asha Kasliwal President, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare
Dr Andrew Fraser Chair, Scottish Directors of Public Health
Prof Martin McKee Past president, European Public Health Association
Andy Burman CEO, British Dietetic Association
Sharon White CEO, School and Public Health Nurses Association
Prof Hazel Inskip President, Society of Social Medicine
Prof Tamara Hervey Professor of law, Sheffield University
Anne Godfrey CEO, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Katherine Severi CEO, Institute of Alcohol Studies
Pamela Healy CEO, British Liver Trust
Paul Bristow Acting CEO, Kidney Care UK
Sarah Hughes CEO, Centre for Mental Health
Kath Dalmeny CEO, Sustain
Jeremy Hughes CEO, Alzheimer’s Society
Deborah Arnott CEO, ASH
Sheila Duffy CEO, ASH Scotland


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