With the Brexit landscape constantly changing, this section pulls together the latest updates on Brexit and its potential impact on health and care.
The UK-EU negotiations
Brexit deal agreed
A trade and cooperation agreement concluded between the UK and EU on Christmas Eve and addresses many of the concerns repeatedly expressed by the NHS Confederation and Brexit Health Alliance over the last four years. There is a lot of good news, but some significant gaps compared with the arrangements that applied until the end of the post-Brexit transition period on 31 December. Inevitably the new relationship between the UK and EU has resulted in more complex and time-consuming procedures compared with the rules that applied when the UK was a member of the EU.
The main changes affecting the NHS are summarised on our news page. In addition, in this letter to the health and care sector on 30 December 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care provides an update on the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the government's preparations for the end of the transition period.
The Withdrawal Agreement: latest round of UK-EU talks
The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol
The fourth meeting of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Specialised Committee took place on 5 November, co-chaired by officials from the UK Government and the European Commission. the UK Government issued a statement following the session to confirm they had agreed a phased implementation of medicines regulation in Northern Ireland up to 31 December 2021 (rather than December 2020), providing the additional time for businesses to prepare in relation to batch testing, importation and Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) requirements. The parties also agreed to an intensified process of engagement to resolve all outstanding issues.
The EU-UK Joint Committee
The Joint Committee has the overall responsibility to oversee and monitor the application of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2020.
The fourth meeting of the committee under the Withdrawal Agreement took place on 19 October 2020. In a statement following the session, the European Commission confirmed that the EU had informed the UK that the Commission had adopted a decision to give the UK access to the necessary IT systems, databases and networks needed to fulfil its obligations under the NI Protocol.
Accessing healthcare in the EU from 1 January 2021
The Government has launched its new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which will gradually replace the existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and which will continue to guarantee the rights of UK citizens to receive emergency and medically necessary healthcare when travelling in the EU - this includes medically necessary treatment for a pre-existing or chronic condition. Current EHICs will remain valid for as long as they are in date and people can continue to use them when travelling in the EU and application for the replacement GHIC will only be necessary when a current EHIC expires. The new GHIC is free and can be obtained via the official website.
Getting your organisation ready for the end of the EU exit transition period
As we approach the end of the EU exit transition period, the NHS Confederation has produced a quick guide on what is happening and the key actions for NHS organisations to take in preparation for the end of transition period on 31 December. Check out this briefing to answer your questions on what is being asked of you on a range of topics from the continuity of supply of medicines and processes for EU staff, to key messages for patients.
To support NHS organisations with the end of the transition period, the NHS Confederation has also produced this new member briefing. This reviews the most recent government guidance and provides a checklist of actions NHS data protection officers can take to protect access to EU data for patient care and research in the event that the EU does not grant the UK data adequacy before the end of 2020.
Preparing for the end of the transition period - guidance for providers and commissioners
The latest guidance for medicine and medical product suppliers was published on 17 November, providing an update on the plans and preparations ahead of the end of the transition period, 31 December 2020, with the EU from Steve Oldfield, Chief Commercial Officer DHSC. The letter follows his previous communication on 3 August 2020, relating to government preparations and the role of suppliers in helping to ensure uninterrupted supply to patients across the UK.
The guidance shares the latest border planning assumptions for the end of the year, alternative routes for medical supplies, trader support, buffer stocks, regulation, and the shortage management response approach. The scope includes: medicines; medical devices and clinical consumables; supplies for clinical trials and clinical investigations; vaccines and countermeasures; and blood, tissue and transplant materials.