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Rapid response to:

Feature EU Referendum and Health

What would the NHS look like if the UK left the EU?

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 02 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3027

Rapid Response:

Re: Will Home Office VISA Refusal Prompt West African Relatives To Vote Brexit?

Will Home Office VISA Refusal Prompt West African Relatives To Vote Brexit?

Something happened just last week that has shaken the West African community in the UK. A Ghanaian friend of my son applied without success for VISA to fly over for urgent medical attention. The Ghanaian Specialist Practitioner whom the patient was coming to consult is not only a Professor in a UK Teaching Hospital but also the “Silas Dodu Distinguished Visiting Professor of Interventional Cardiology and Pudendology” in the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. The patient’s condition deteriorated rapidly and, having been refused a VISA, Professor Nicholas Ossei-Gerning, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (London) had to fly to Accra with my son Dawid to treat his school mate. Please ponder Dawid’s harrowing account [1]:

This meticulous account including the Home Office VISA Refusal Document has gone viral on the Internet and become world news on social media. Suddenly the nearly one million Ghanaians in the UK and several millions of Commonwealth West Africans resident here, paying their taxes, and possessing voting rights are beginning to view the imminent Referendum through spectacles that most British born-and-bred natives and commentators have never used. When Ann Gulland [2] wrote a week ago: “Brexit campaigners have also pointed out to the potential drain on NHS resources presented by the large numbers of European migrants who may come to the UK in coming years, from Turkey, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, and Montenegro, all of which want to join the EU” – when Ann Gulland wrote this I wondered how many commentators spared a thought for the offspring of West Africans who fought in the Second World War in Burma who may be begging to come to the UK for private medical treatment and be blocked while Europeans can fly across The Channel without a VISA and use the NHS? Many Ghanaian residents in the UK and other Commonwealth Africans are not at all sure what message the Home Office appears to be giving the millions of them. They may well be asking: “Is the UK Home Office really asking those of us with voting rights to vote Brexit?”


Fellow Ghanaians desire to consult their kith and kin overseas, and to be prevented from doing this can be quite painful. They are well aware that Africans doing extremely well outside their country are often described as constituting a brain drain from their native land, but the truth is that we can also be described as Talent Export. Our Former Head of State His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor more than once told gatherings of us at the Ghana High Commission in Belgrave Square London SW1 that we contributed in Billions of Pounds Sterling more than the combined Overseas Aid from the UK, USA, and other countries. That apart, exceptional talent is also rewarded by the UK, USA, and other developed countries. For Nicholas Ossei-Gerning to be not only an NHS Consultant Physician Cardiologist but to be Professor in a UK Medical Faculty is great achievement. Indeed, in the BMJ on 13 February 2014 we read: “On March 7 at the Royal Society of Medicine …Dr Ossei-Gerning MD(Lond) FRCP(Lond), Consultant Interventional and General Cardiologist, University Hospitals of Wales, Cardiff will 11.50 am – 12.30 pm give the MASTER LECTURE on ‘The Role of Interventional Cardiology in Erectile Dysfunction’”. [3] He did, and there was a standing ovation. This was the man that the Home Office refused a VISA to enable his countryman fly over to see. Fortunately, he himself flew across The Sahara to attend to him in Ghana.

Competing Interest: None declared.

Felix ID Konotey-Ahulu MD(Lond) FRCP(Lond) DTMH(L’pool) FGCP FWACP FTWAS
Kwegyir Aggrey Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, University of Cape Coast, Ghana and Former Consultant Physician Genetic Counsellor in Sickle Cell and Other Haemoglobinopathies, 9 Harley Street Ltd, Phoenix Hospital Group, London W1G 9AL

1 Konotey-Ahulu Dawid They always say it’s impossible until it’s done: A race against time and cold hearted bureaucracy [ ] June 9 2016]

2 Gulland Ann What would the NHS look like if we left the EU? BMJ 2016 353:i3027 doi: June 2 2016

3 Konotey-Ahulu FID. Erectile dysfunction: Test, please, for sickle cell disease. Rapid response to BMJ 2014; 348: g129 February 13 2014

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 June 2016
Felix I D Konotey Ahulu
Kwegyir Aggrey Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics University of Cape Coast Ghana
Former Consultant Physician Genetic Counsellor in Sickle Cell and Other Haemoglobinopathies, 9 Harley Street, London W1G 9AL
14 Imperial Way, Hemel Hempstead, Herts HP3 9FJ