How will a ‘no deal’ Brexit affect the NHS?
At a recent meeting of UK urologists I asked for a show of hands of those who had voted to remain in the European Union – around 90% of the sizeable audience indicated that they had. They, like me, seemed appalled that David Cameron had gambled the future of the country on a simple referendum – 51% and you’re out – whereas other countries faced with far less momentous issues opt for two stage votes or a super-majority. He took this gamble merely to appease the Eurosceptic wing of his party and to staunch the haemorrhage of votes to the UK Independence part, and in doing so fired the starting gun on the political mayhem that we have all had to live with for the past two and a half years.
Uncertainty over the UK’s future relations with the European Union is now leading to acute problems with contingency planning by NHS trusts and boards across the UK. Trusts have been unable to accurately forecast how the supply of medicines and workforce availability are most likely to be badly affected by Brexit.
Freedom of Information requests were recently sent by the BMJ to all 231 NHS trusts in England, and 26 health boards across Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Responses were received from 71% of recipients. The investigation found that so far only 9% of trusts in England have established any sort of committee or body to oversee preparations for the country potentially crashing out of the EU on March 29th 2019.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘We’re working with Scottish health boards to mitigate as much as is possible against the risks that come from any form of Brexit. The reality is that no matter the preparation that is put in place we will not be able to mitigate against all the real problems that Brexit are likely to bring. We have made repeated representations to the UK government on these matters, not least on seeking clarity from them of the potential impact on the supply of medicines.’
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘The Department has already set in motion contingency plans to minimise any disruption to the health and social care system as we exit the EU. We are working closely with NHS Trusts, relevant companies and their supply chains so patients can continue to access healthcare services and medical supplies in the same way they do now.’
What is your own experience? Is ‘no deal’ Brexit planning any further advanced in your own Trust or practice? Is chaos in the NHS the most likely scenario after the 29th of March?