Brexit could impact on flagship cross-border cancer hospital, health forum told

Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan speaks during the Diagnosing Brexit event at in the Long Gallery at Stormont Parliament buildings
By David Young, Press Association

A flagship cross-border cancer hospital could be impacted by post-Brexit restrictions on moving radioactive isotopes, a health forum has heard.

Services at the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry, which treats patients from northernly counties in the Republic, might also be hit if a hard Brexit results in restrictions on the mobility of staff and patients across the border, the director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies said.

Ruth Taillon, who heads up the think tank, was addressing an event at Stormont focused on the potential challenges Brexit poses to the health sector.

During her address, she highlighted a possible consequence of the UK leaving the European atomic energy community, Euratom.

"Altnagelvin has been one of the flagship cross-border facilities for radiotherapy," she said.

"Now that is not funded through Europe – it's an agreement between the two governments – so the radiology service will be there [post Brexit].

"Where things might get a bit dicey is if there are problems transposing radioactive isotopes across borders once we lose the Euratom agreements.

"There could also be issues around the mobility of other medical staff or patients across the border and we really can't predict what those will be."

Outlining the extent of healthcare co-operation on the island of Ireland, and across the EU, Ms Taillon said a divergence of regulations on pharmaceuticals and medical devices could have a significant impact in Northern Ireland.

Ms Taillon was one of a number of speakers at the Diagnosing Brexit event in the Long Gallery of Parliament Buildings. The gathering was co-sponsored by Sinn Féin.

MLA Pat Sheehan said: "Brexit presents a serious threat to the provision of health and social care in the north of Ireland and to cross-border and All-Ireland health care.

"A hard border would represent particular problems for cross-border and all-Ireland health services, particularly in relation to freedom of movement of people including health workers.

"As Brexit draws ever closer we all have a responsibility to engage in public discussion in considering its implications for our health and social care services."

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