Shutting down Parliament is bad news for the NHS

By Jon Skewes, Executive Director of External Relations on 29 August 2019 Maternity Services Brexit Politics

On Wednesday morning the Prime Minister announced that Parliament would soon be prorogued (political jargon for "shut down") for five weeks from the week of 9th September until 14th October. By lunchtime the Queen had agreed, and the paperwork duly signed.

During this time Parliament will not sit. Members of Parliament as well as members of the House of Lords will have no opportunity to question government ministers, hold committee hearings, debate and vote on Brexit or anything else. And this will be only a few days after Parliament has returned from its summer recess.

News of the forced shutdown of Parliament triggered a wave of protest, with thousands on the streets of Westminster. Further protests were held that evening in other towns and cities, and more are planned.

Why does this matter? Why does the Royal College of Midwives think it's a bad idea?

The top reason is because shutting down Parliament – barring MPs and peers from doing their work – means a "no deal" Brexit, which would be very bad news for the NHS, is much more likely.

"No deal" means the UK crashes out of the EU with no plan and no deal. This strategy risks shortages of medicines and NHS consumables, once the ones being stockpiled run out; staff shortages will get worse as EU citizens find it harder to come here to work and the ones who are here no longer feel welcome; and the inevitable blow to economy will feed through into public spending on which the NHS budget obviously depends.

You can read more about the impact of a "no deal" Brexit in a joint statement that the RCM has signed along with 10 other health bodies.

By shutting down Parliament for more than a month, parliamentarians have little time to try to work out a solution to Brexit that isn’t a simple car-crash exit on 31st October, with all the damage that will do to the NHS.

We just hope that, in the few days that they now have, MPs can assert themselves back into this process and come up with something that leads to an outcome that is not as deliberately and wantonly reckless as the one currently being pursued by the Government.