Unite regional health chair David Donohue: Tory Brexit risks patient access to nuclear materials vital to healthcare

Though some progress has been made in securing a domestic alternative to membership of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), Unite members who work with radioactive materials are concerned that the shambolic Tory handling of the Brexit  process means time may still run out.

Last week, the UK signed two new agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) covering nuclear safeguarding for when the UK leaves Euratom, which is responsible for regulating the movement of radioactive materials across Europe.

Despite the agreements, a leaked report shows the government’s internal “Risk Register” on the readiness of post-Brexit nuclear safeguards gives a red warning for the all the highest level risks including, staffing, training and IT systems.

“I would be very surprised if we could set up an alternative domestic system in the timeframe we have left. If the talks collapse and there’s no transitional agreement or replacement for Euratom, then we will potentially lose our access to radioactive materials,” said Unite regional health chair for the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, David Donohue, who works in nuclear medicine.

He explained: “A lot of our radioactive materials come from abroad and we’re reliant on Euratom for their transport. It’s the only reason we can transport these materials across the EU. At the moment our biggest source (for nuclear medicine) is the Netherlands. Without the legislative framework of Euratom, or a working alternative, we won’t be able to import radioactive material into this country.”

“That could prevent patients accessing vital diagnostic tests and other medical treatments, such as those for cancer, involving radioactive materials. People in my sector are just wondering ‘what an earth is going to happen?’”

Donohue added: “The issues surrounding Euratom are symptomatic of the government’s entire Brexit debacle. There has been a lack of clear plan from the outset and blame lies squarely at the Tories’ door.”