The Royal College of Nursing has come out in support of a second Brexit referendum, warning a bad deal could “jeopardise patient care”.
The union, which represents more than 400,000 nurses, student nurses, midwives and health care assistants, says Britain’s departure from the European Union presents an “immediate risk to the provision of safe and effective care”.
The warning is contained in a letter sent by the RCN to party leaders.
In it, the union outlines what it says are the “significant challenges” thrown up by Brexit, including exacerbating existing problems like workforce sustainability.
The letter voices concern about the potential “dilution of fair employment practices and workers’ rights” and “cross-border exchange of knowledge, research and skills”.
Maria Trewern, chair of council at the RCN, writes: “As the debate across our membership has made clear, the implications of Brexit for the health and care system will be numerous.
“There are risks that, if not credibly addressed, may damage population health, as well as severely impact on our members’ ability to provide safe and effective care for their patients in both the short and the long term.
“We have written to all political parties in these terms, as well as publicly shared the content of this letter.
“This is the next step in our campaigning activity in this area, which will expand in the months to come.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Staff from the EU are a vital part of our NHS and social care workforce, and they will have an important role to play in the future of health and social care in this country.
“We are preparing for all situations, including a no-deal Brexit, and we have worked closely with partners to draw up contingency plans that will ensure patients continue to receive care in exactly the same way they do now.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has been steadfast in her refusal to countenance a second referendum, telling Sky News on Tuesday: “We are not in the business of having a second referendum on Brexit.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is coming under pressure from campaigners to back a vote on the final deal.