NHS European Office

Patient access to medical research

hospital ward

Patients across the European Union, including the UK, benefit enormously from the current close collaboration between medical researchers who investigate, develop and test new treatments on an EU-wide basis.


The Brexit Health Alliance believes that unless there is a new partnership on science and research between the EU and the UK post-Brexit, patients will suffer, and has highlighted three areas of uncertainty for the medical research community:

  • Will the UK be able receive from/contribute to EU funding programmes and participate fully in collaborative opportunities to advance the discovery and understanding of diseases and ill-health across Europe?
  • Will those involved in medical research, including healthcare professionals, technicians and patients, be able to travel and work across the EU as freely as they do now ?
  • Will patients across Europe and the UK continue to benefit from pan-European clinical trials which involve the UK? Will UK patients be able to benefit as quickly from new drugs and treatments if the UK is not fully aligned with EU rules regulating medical research, medicines and medical devices?


This briefing from the Brexit Health Alliance sets out how patients across Europe have benefited from pan-European collaboration on medical research, outlines what is at stake if this collaboration is set back and what UK and EU decision-makers can do to mitigate the risks.

Collaboration in European Reference Networks (ERNs)

ERNs are virtual networks of healthcare providers from across Europe working together to find solutions for patients of rare and complex conditions.

Coordinated and targeted action under the newly established ERNs offers a real and tangible opportunity to draw on the collective expertise and experience of over 900 expert centres, connecting 300 hospitals across 26 Member States, to revolutionise healthcare, break the isolation of patients, reduce health inequality and pave the way for faster diagnosis and access to expert advice, diagnosis and treatment.

ERNs offer hope to the 30 million patients across Europe who suffer from rare and undiagnosed conditions.

Patient benefit

The coordinators of the 24 ERNs and the alliance of European patient organisations (Eurordis), have both issued statements to coincide with the 2018 Rare Disease Day (28 February), calling on the EU and the UK government to put patients at the heart of the forthcoming Article 50 negotiations and to find a solution for UK patients and healthcare providers to continue to benefit from these networks.

The NHS is involved in 23 of the 24 networks (approximately 40 NHS hospitals), with NHS Trusts leading a quarter (6) and many further lead on delivery of outcomes from within their respective ERNs. It is of the utmost importance to secure the continued and lasting involvement and fruitful collaboration of UK colleagues, especially in the formative years of the ERNs.

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Collaboration is not for control freaks | Dr Charlotte Augst

21 / 3 / 2018 12.30am

Somerset Sustainability and Transformation Partnership has been collaborating with the Richmond Group of Charities and wider voluntary sector on a programme called ‘Doing the Right Thing’. Charlotte Augst shares what she’s learned so far about collaboration and leadership.

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