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 was 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.
This letter to the health and care sector on 30 December 2020 from 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 main changes as a result of the deal affecting the NHS are summarised on our news page and for a more detailed assessment of the impact of the deal, you can read the European Office’s briefing.
The NHS Confederation also recently hosted an online event ‘What does the new Brexit trade deal mean for the NHS?’, looking at the impact of the Brexit deal on the NHS and wider health sector that supports it. The session detailed where we are in the process, shared a full run down of the agreements that have implications for health, and discussed what changes can be expected and where members can find the latest advice and guidance on Brexit issues. Visit the event page for the recording and presentation from the session.
The Withdrawal Agreement: Implementation
The EU-UK Joint Committee
The Joint Committee has the overall responsibility to oversee and monitor the application of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, including the Northern Ireland (NI) Protocol, which entered into force on 1 February 2020. It is co-chaired by the UK and the EU – the UK co-chair is Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP and the EU co-chair is European Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič. The next meeting of the committee is expected no later than 24 February 2021. Discussions at this session will focus on potential solutions to the major disruptions to trade experienced between NI and the Britain since the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.
Background: The two sides released a statement following a bilateral meeting on 11 February between Michael Gove and Maros Šefčovič called to start to address issues around the implementation of the NI protocol. The meeting was prompted by an exchange of letters in which the UK asked the EU to agree to extend and expand waivers on the movement of certain goods from Britain into NI calling for urgent political solutions to problems implementing post-Brexit rules. This included a request for the arrangements on medicines agreed last December to be extended for a further year at least to 1 January 2023 to resolve for NI patients all outstanding practical issues on medicines, and set out a long-term approach that will ensure no barriers of any kind to the movement of medicines into NI.
EU Exit response update
Professor Keith Willett, NHS England Strategic Incident Director for EU Exit, has written to NHS SROs, reminding them to maintain their current level of preparedness in case of potential further impacts on service delivery in the coming months due to EU Exit, following publication of the revised timetable for the implementation of border controls and that the approach to supply issues outlined in his letter of 30 December should continue to apply. His letter also makes reference to updated guidance on how NHS organisations should handle recovery of hospital charges from overseas visitors following implementation of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, as well as updates on data sharing and reciprocal care.
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.