The Brexit Health Alliance is warning that efforts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in the UK could be under threat if the country pulls out of the EU’s early warning system without having a suitable replacement.
Infectious diseases in the UK – such as the recent case of antibiotic resistant super super-gonorrhoea, measles and salmonella - are regularly imported from other EU countries and vice-versa.
Collaboration between the Britain and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is essential for tracking these outbreaks and assessing their risk to public health.
Unless the UK can secure continued access to ECDC systems post-Brexit, “there are likely to be delays in communication in cases of emerging risk or crisis management situations, resulting in delays in regulatory and other action,” the Alliance warned.
It says the while government has already pledged to maintain standards and ensure a high level of human protection, it remains concerned that public health may not rate high on the agenda of negotiations, “and that the opportunity to maintain robust co-operation may be lost”.
The Alliance’s latest Brexit briefing calls for the EU and UK negotiators to ensure that after the separation, “mutually beneficial co-ordination continues to safeguard the public on both sides of the Channel from health threats”.
“Infectious diseases do not respect borders and we need to tackle them together. It should be blindingly obvious to all concerned that that it is in all our interests to maintain these vital links,” said Niall Dickson, co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance and chief executive of the NHS Confederation.
“The negotiators have much on their minds but protecting the health of millions must be a priority.”