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BMA annual meeting: Porter slams EU “leave” campaigners for NHS funding claims

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3433 (Published 20 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3433
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers

The BMA has criticised politicians who are campaigning for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union for making false claims about NHS funding.

Mark Porter, the BMA’s chair of council, condemned the claims in his keynote speech at the BMA’s annual representatives meeting in Belfast on Monday 20 June. Although the BMA’s position on the referendum to leave the EU is neutral, Porter said that the association could not remain neutral in condemning claims that the NHS would receive billions of pounds of extra funding were the UK to leave the EU.

A statement released by the “leave” campaigners Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, and Gisela Stuart earlier this month said, “If we vote leave, we can take back control of our borders and our money.

“By 2020, we can give the NHS a £100m per week cash injection, and we can ensure that the wealthy interests that have rigged the EU rules in their favour at last pay their fair share.”1

Porter told the conference, “We’ve warned before about politicians playing games with the health service. Here we see game playing on a truly continental scale. That promise of billions of pounds of extra NHS funding if we leave the European Union: it’s beyond irresponsible.”

He added, “It relies on the unknowable assumption that the United Kingdom’s economy will be the same size and the money would still be available. It is a promise that has been proven to be based on fantasy figures, but it is maintained as a slogan designed to deceive.”

In his speech Porter also criticised language used by campaigners when discussing immigration. He said that the NHS would not exist in the way it did without the contribution of tens of thousands of doctors who have come from overseas.

“Anyone who attacks the contribution to this country of people from around the world attacks us all. They attack many of us personally, but they attack every one of us, because the health service we love would not exist without their contribution,” Porter said.

“We are one profession. And that means you, who trained in India, you from Pakistan, you from Nigeria, from Poland, from Germany, from South Africa, from every single country that makes the world’s greatest health service a health service that the world has built.”

He added, “The health service would be poorer without you. There might not even be a health service without you.”

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