Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission: Medics say cancer patients could suffer after the UK leaves the EU

PUBLISHED: 17:50 03 October 2018 | UPDATED: 18:57 04 October 2018

Representatives from the public sector gave evidence in front of the Brexit Commission at Tower Hamlets Town Hall. Picture: Mike Brooke

Representatives from the public sector gave evidence in front of the Brexit Commission at Tower Hamlets Town Hall. Picture: Mike Brooke


The health and education sectors in Tower Hamlets could be worse off after Brexit.

That’s according to a meeting of the Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission today (Wednesday), where representatives from Queen Mary’s University, Tower Hamlets College, Barts Health Trust, the East London Foundation Trust and the council gave evidence on Brexit’s potential impact in the borough.

They made repeated warnings that, because of the uncertainty surrounding withdrawal, it was hard to make contingency plans.

Alison Arnaud, principle of Tower Hamlets College, said: “There’s a perception that Britain is turning its’ back on collaboration.

“Our American students see us as the gateway to Europe and they won’t study with us if we have barriers to it. I worry that that brain drain is not something we’ll get back. If these learners go, what’s going to bring them back?”

The prospect of a skills shortage was also raised by Andy Scott, the council’s head of economic development, and doctor Violeta Sanchez, a consultant at Barts Health Trust.

“There are many challenges in England’s future,” she said.

“We don’t have a lot of information on what the plan is, so it’s very difficult to plan for lack of medicine, workforce or other eventualities.

“The main issues that we face are whether we’ll have access to the isotopes we need for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“It’s very difficult to plan in advance for how we’ll treat cancer patients. We can’t stockpile radioactive isotopes for months – they’re supposed to be used within 66 hours.”

Dr. Sanchez also said uncertainties surrounded companies’ abilities to stockpile medicines, and whether people would still come to the UK for medical research. For the consultant, who’s originally from Spain, she said Brexit would also have a personal impact.

“Because of everything that’s happening, I’m going to be taking a year off,” she said.

“I love my job but lots of us have been struggling with uncertainty. I’ve been here for eight years and I’m sorry to have to go. I might be able to come back but at this point, thinking about the future, I won’t be happy to stay here without knowing whether my right to work will continue.”

Last week, Tower Hamlets Council called for a second vote on leaving the EU, with the mayor citing uncertainty and the number of people who voted remain as reasons for a people’s vote.

A Department for Health spokesman said: “The government is confident of reaching a deal with the EU that benefits patients and the NHS, but we are preparing for all situations and we are working closely with partners to ensure patients can continue to access all medicines and receive top quality healthcare in the event of a no deal.”

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