NHS Lothian Brexit plans would 'hit women hardest'

NHS Lothian has drawn up plans of what might have to happen if there is a no-deal Brexit.
NHS Lothian has drawn up plans of what might have to happen if there is a no-deal Brexit.
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BREXIT plans drawn up by NHS Lothian bosses would hit women’s health services hardest, campaigners have claimed.

Health chiefs have divided services into those which “must be preserved” and those which “would be deferred first” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Routine dental treatment and eye examinations are among those which could be suspended, along with cervical screening, routine post-natal checks and long-acting contraceptive treatment.

The health board has stressed the measures, revealed under Freedom of Information legislation, are contingency plans only and may never be implemented.

But Dr Patrycja Kupiec, director of the Young Women’s Movement Scotland, said: “We are disappointed to see that women’s health services have been ranked as non-priority in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“We strongly believe that comprehensive women’s health care, including preventative screenings and access to a wide range of contraceptive treatments, is a sign of a society which takes inequality and injustice seriously.

“We are concerned that a no-Brexit deal scenario would force Scotland to cut down on these essential services.

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit could see NHS Lothian cut back on 'non-essential' health services

“As a new mother navigating health challenges that come with pregnancy and birth, I am frustrated that maternal health would no longer be prioritised. The women of Scotland deserve better than this.”

And Alys Mumford, of anti-sexism group Engender, said: “We know that a no-deal Brexit will have a disproportionate impact on women, and this document highlights the real threat posed to women’s health.

“For many women in Scotland, cervical screening, routine post-natal examinations and long acting contraceptive treatments are essential healthcare, and the thought that they will be deferred in a no-deal scenario will cause stress and anxiety, as well as exposing women to preventable harm.”

Under the plans, the health board would prioritise “vital” services such as GP practices, community nursing, treatment for acute or severe injuries, palliative care, child vaccinations and mental health.

But staff and visitor meals, cleaning of non-clinical areas and lower priority maintenance could all be at risk.

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said plans to cut back so drastically on services in the event of no deal were “deeply worrying”.

He said: “The realities of a hard Brexit are now laid bare and would impact on the lives of each patient of NHS Lothian, removing vital services.

“One of the many reasons to stop Brexit is the devastating impact it will have on medicines, with more than one million consignments of medical supplies coming in from Europe every day.”

Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “It is important to remember that the workforce challenges and pressures on health services facing our NHS didn’t start with Brexit. I have been working to make sure important supply chains are being secured and any concerns are investigated.”