The Royal College of General Practitioners has sent a plea to the next leader of the Conservative Party – and next Prime Minister of the UK –  to safeguard the NHS and avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit “in the best interests of patient care”.

In an open letter, College chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard urged all remaining candidates in the leadership race - Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart - to “prevent a no-deal Brexit at any cost given the significant impact on patient care it could have by threatening the supply of medicines, medical devices and radioisotopes, and the recruitment and retention of vital EU national staff”.

She also stressed that general practice is under “immense strain”, and highlighted the importance of setting out “a positive vision for the future of general practice” and realising the ambitions set out in NHS England’s Long-Term Plan to “meet the challenges of the 21st century and put the NHS on a sustainable footing”.

As well as calling for assurances that the NHS will remain free at the point of use now and for future generations, Professor Stokes-Lampard also called on whoever is the next Prime Minister to: increase funding for frontline general practice to at least 11% of the NHS budget, and deliver NHS England’s Long-Term Plan in full; recruit at least 5,000 additional GPs by 2021 in addition to more members of the wider practice team to work on the frontline of general practice and; ensure that general practice is an attractive career to prevent experienced GPs leaving the profession.

The College officially opposes the UK’s exit from the European Union following a decision by its governing Council in November 2018.

“Brexit has dominated the political landscape for several years, to the detriment of health, education and many other essential pillars of our society. As a College we oppose Brexit on the grounds that we believe it will have a profoundly negative impact on the NHS and patient safety – but if we are to leave the EU, at the very least we need assurances that we will not do so without a no deal,” Professor Stokes-Lampard said.