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No-deal Brexit will force NHS into emergency planning

Following the publication in December of the Department of Health and Social Care’s guidance for providers in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Permanent Secretary Sir Chris Wormald has written to all providers and commissioners of NHS services to advise that with just three months to go and with a deal yet to be ratified, the Department will now act on the remaining elements of its ‘no deal’ plan.


A national Operational Response Centre has been set up by the Department and with the support of NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England. The Centre will lead on response to disruption to health and care services in England, coordinate EU exit-related information flows and reporting, and work with all devolved administrations to ensure a coordinated approach across the UK.


Welcoming what he called the “honesty and detail of this guidance,” Niall Dickson, Co-Chair of the Brexit Health Alliance said it is becoming clear that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will force the NHS into an “emergency-planning mode.”


He explains: “The decision to create a National Operational Response Centre shows that we are talking about a national emergency. In addition, every hospital and service will need its own emergency plan for maintaining services and supplies, overseen by a Brexit responsible officer.”


He also outlined several critical questions that remain. These include ambiguity over what a ‘no-deal’ really means for the manufacture of drugs and devices that incorporate ingredients or parts sourced from the EU and the UK. 


“The EU has confirmed it will impose customs checks on UK goods coming into the EU. If this creates delays at the borders for months ahead, it could have a devastating impact on the manufacture of drugs across Europe and affect the just-in-time supply chain on which every hospital, clinic and community service relies.”


More clarity is also needed around the rights of UK citizens to access healthcare in EU countries.


The full guidance summarises the areas where the department is focusing its no-deal contingency planning and can be viewed and downloaded here.