The UK's vote to leave the EU will have far-reaching implications for the NHS, but much will depend on which type of relationship the UK government will seek with the EU post-Brexit (see our guide for a quick overview of potential implications for the NHS in a number of crucial areas). More in depth analysis on these issues is available from our blogs and articles.
No-deal Brexit: Technical Notices
The UK government has highlighted that it is preparing for every scenario and has released a series of technical notices (23 August and 13 September) aimed at advising industry and the public how to prepare in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit.
Among the published papers, the following cover health matters and/or are of relevance to the NHS:
Here we examine the papers in more detail.
Operational guidance to the NHS
As part of its no-deal Brexit preparation, on 23 August, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, wrote to all health and social care organisations to update them on the government’s ongoing preparations to protect patients and health and social care services in the event of a March 2019 “no deal” scenario, should this occur.
The letter sets out what the health and social care system needs to do to step up preparations on the ground to ensure business continuity.
In particular it announces a new scheme to ensure a sufficient and seamless supply of medicines, in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies, which will mean that hospitals, GPs, pharmacies and patients will not need to “stockpile” unnecessarily.
DHSC has also written to pharmaceutical companies and suppliers of medical devices asking for their contingency plans and pinpointing where their concerns lie (e.g. short-life products, warehousing, distribution) in order to focus national-level support where necessary.
The health and social care workforce
There are approximately 144,000 EU nationals working in health and social care organisations across England: 80,000 in adult social care, 58,000 in the NHS, and 6,000 in independent health organisations.
The leave vote has created uncertainty on the future rights of these employees. If a significant proportion of EU nationals working in health and social care services leave as a result of the present uncertainty, the sustainability of some services and the delivery of high quality services would be jeopardised.
With this in mind, the Cavendish Coalition has been created, a coalition of 31 health and social care organisations aiming to ensure sustainable workforce supply and thereby maintaining standards of care as Britain withdraws from the EU.
The NHS European Office is a member of the Cavendish Coalition. Find out more about the coalition.