SCOTLAND’S NHS is facing ruin because of Brexit. The stark warning comes from the Scottish Government’s health secretary Shona Robison, as well as the head of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland and the Scottish leader of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

As the NHS prepares to mark its 70th anniversary, Robison said the health service in Scotland is facing its greatest-ever crisis because of the “threat” Brexit poses to overseas staff. She highlighted the restrictions Scotland faces on recruitment of medical staff after leaving the EU and single market, saying the loss of doctors and nurses– “the beating heart of the service” – would leave Scotland’s NHS in ruins.

Leaving the single market would harm the recruitment and retention of medics from other EU nations, Robison added.

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In order to off-set the problems, Robison said that Scotland needed a “differentiated immigration policy” from the rest of the UK.

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland, echoed her words saying Brexit “poses a substantial and serious threat to the future of the NHS workforce”. He also said that the UK government, which has control over immigration, had to act.

The BMA fears that more than a third of Scotland-based doctors trained in Europe could leaving the NHS over Brexit-fuelled uncertainty.

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland Director, warned post-Brexit restrictions on EU citizens working in the NHS would cause a staffing crisis for the service.

Robison highlighted how around 1-in-20 of Scotland’s doctors come from other parts of Europe, adding Scotland’s NHS faced its biggest threat since its founding father Aneurin Bevan pioneered the service after the Second World War, establishing it in 1948.

Robison said: “2018 will be the 70th anniversary of our National Health Service. It has continued to evolve over that time, but here in Scotland it has been kept to Nye Bevan’s founding principles of being publicly-owned, publicly-run, and free at the point of need. It has endured thanks to the care, compassion, and professionalism of NHS staff as the beating heart of the service.”

However, Robison the existence of the NHS was in jeopardy due to the refusal by UK ministers to guarantee that European medics working in Scotland could remain after Brexit.

She described Brexit as a “looming threat ... to providing the best care possible for the people of Scotland”. Robison added: “Under this Government our NHS staffing levels have reached a record high level. But addressing the challenges we face in recruitment will be made so much harder if we are no longer members of the EU single market.

“Right now around 1-in-20 of our doctors come from elsewhere in the Europe. Sadly, the UK Government has failed to give any proper guarantees to these citizens who are doing such vital work in our public services.

“In contrast, we have committed to financially supporting EU nationals working in our public services to help them obtain settled status.

“Clearly, to give our public services and economy the best support it’s vital that we remain in the single market and for Scotland to have, at minimum, the ability to set a differentiated immigration policy to be able to continue to attract people to live, work and study in our country.”

The BMA, which represents doctors, said Scotland’s NHS faced the “extremely worrying” prospect of losing key personnel due to Brexit.

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that Brexit poses a substantial and serious threat to the future of the NHS workforce here in Scotland, at a time when we have too many medical vacancies already and the NHS is struggling to cope.”

He added: “With our NHS workforce already overstretched and under considerable pressure, the prospect of losing the hugely valued contribution that EEA [European Economic Area] doctors make is extremely worrying.

“But more importantly these are our friends and colleagues, who are an important part of the communities where they live, and are doing a fantastic job for the people of Scotland.

“They deserve to hear solid, clear and reassuring plans for their future and we look to all levels of Government – in particular the UK Government, given their overall responsibility for immigration – to deliver that.”

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland Director, warned of a “major problem for staffing in the NHS”.

She said: “Nursing staff want to do their very best for patients, but our recent research shows they are under increasing pressure as a result of high levels of vacancies.

“Scotland, like the rest of the UK, depends on the contribution of EU nationals working in health and social care and it will be important to continue to be able to rely on that contribution in the future.

“Depending on the settlement that the UK government negotiates, the flow of EU nationals could be impacted. This could cause a major problem for staffing in the NHS and other health and social care organisations, either directly through new restrictions, or indirectly because EU-born staff may choose to leave the UK due to the uncertainty created before new rules are put in place on migration restriction.

“The impact of Brexit on the nursing workforce, therefore, needs to be carefully considered to protect an already overstretched health service.”

In response, a Scottish Tory spokesman accused the SNP of mismanaging the NHS during its time in power.

A party spokesman said: “Instead of constantly pointing the finger, Shona Robison should take responsibility for the mess her own party has made of the NHS over the last decade."

A UK Government spokesperson added: "We will also put in place an immigration system that works in the national interest and will allow us to continue to attract brightest and best, like those working in our NHS."