Bangor academic gives expert evidence to House of Lords

A Bangor academic presented evidence to the House of Lords Home Affairs Select Committee recently. Professor Michael Rees of the College of Health & Behavioural Sciences was called to give expert evidence on the potential effects of the UK leaving the Euratom treaty, established to coordinate Europe’s civil nuclear energy industry following the creation of the European Economic Community in 1957, and the implications for patient care and research as a result.

Professor Rees is Professor of Cardiovascular Studies at the College of Health & Behavioural Sciences and is also Co-Chair of the BMA’s Medical Academic Staff Committee. The BMA, the Royal College of Radiologists and the British Nuclear Medicine Society have all expressed concern about the future supply of isotopes, as the UK’s Article 50 letter also signalled that it was withdrawing from the treaty.

Currently, around 700,000 medical investigations using medical isotopes take place each year, ranging from investigations into neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia, to studies for cancers, thyroid and heart disease. At present, most of the world supply of medical isotopes comes from nuclear reactors in Europe and is governed by EU regulations for production and transport. Isotopes also have a limited half-life, meaning that they are in a constant process of decay and that any delays in transport – a possible consequence of border and customs checks following Brexit – could render the isotopes useless.

Presenting alongside the Vice-President of the Royal College of Radiologists and the President-Elect of the British Nuclear Medicine Society, Professor Rees highlighted the possible challenges that could occur as a result of leaving the Euratom treaty seeing as medical isotopes cannot be stockpiled and the UK currently does not have any research reactors capable of producing them.

Over the coming months, Professor Rees will be engaged in further discussions  with the relevant Medical Societies and Government organisations in order to help find a way which ensures patients continue to be investigated and treated with radio-isotopes after the UK’s departure from the EU and the Euratom treaty.

Publication date: 5 December 2017