- The UK could be adversely affected by Brexit from “day one,” according to a leaked letter from health chief Chris Hopson.
- Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, claimed that disease control could suffer and warned it would be harder for the UK to attract European workers.
- NHS England said they were working “across the NHS to ensure plans were well progressed.”
- Labour says “this Government’s chaotic handling of Brexit is putting NHS patients and staff at risk.”
LONDON – Disease prevention would worsen and hospitals would risk running out of drugs under a no-deal Brexit, according to a leaked letter from NHS chiefs to ministers.
The letter was from NHS Providers, the association of NHS trusts, and accuses ministers of failing to prepare adequately for all possible Brexit outcomes.
Significantly, it warned that even a hard Brexit where the UK does strike a deal would risk damaging the UK’s healthcare sector significantly, given the risks to the certification of medicines or isotopes used in cancer treatments across the EU.
The letter warned that “from day one after the UK leaves the EU, the entire supply chain of pharmaceuticals could be adversely affected in the event of no deal or hard Brexit.”
It continued: “Public health and disease control coordination could also suffer, and our efforts to reassure, retain and attract the European workforce on which the NHS relies could also be jeopardized.”
The letter was sent on Friday to Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, and Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, with several ministers copied in.
An NHS England spokesperson told the BBC: “We will be working with our colleagues and partners across the NHS to ensure plans are well progressed and will provide the NHS with the support it needs.”
The Department for Health refused to comment on the story.
‘Patients need to know the full consequences of Brexit’
The news comes as Brexit secretary Dominic Raab travels to Brussels on Tuesday for the latest round of talks with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier. While Raab says a deal is the most likely outcome, he has said preparations for a “no-deal” scenario is the most responsible approach.
The UK is set to leave the EU in March 2019, and a number of issues in talks remain unresolved, meaning the prospect of both sides failing to reach a deal has increased significantly.
Sarah Wollaston MP, who is chair of the Health and Social Care select committee, condemned the government’s unwillingness to publish its contingency planning.
“As the prospect of a no-deal and no-transition hard Brexit becomes more likely, it is more urgent than ever that all NHS organisations, patients and carers can see the full consequences and costs of hard Brexit and begin to make preparations,” Wollaston, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said.
“This is about far more than WTO tariffs and will have far reaching consequences for the NHS, social care, public health and our life sciences as well as those who depend on services,” she added.
“Brexit has officially moved the dial to Government negligence”
TheBest for Britain supporter, Labour MP and former NHS worker Darren Jones said: “Every hospital up and down the country is facing a Brexit catastrophe as no deal threatens the NHS.
“How on earth we’ve ended up in a situation where the Government needs to ensure Britain is fully prepared to protect the lives of patients relying on vital medicines in this way is quite beyond me.
“Brexit has officially moved the dial from Government incompetence to Government negligence.”
“This shows, starkly, why we need a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal,” he continued.
Labour: Government’s handling of Brexit putting NHS at risk
Responding to the email leak, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary said in a statement:
“We need a Brexit deal which puts patients first but now we know of worries at the highest levels within the NHS about the Government’s calamitous failure to prepare properly for no deal.
“For weeks hospital leaders have told me in astonishment that there has been no guidance from ministers explaining the implications of no deal. The fact is that this Government’s chaotic handling of Brexit is putting NHS patients and staff at risk.
“The Government has failed to guarantee the status of hard working NHS staff from overseas after March 2019, and failed to guarantee access to medicines and life-saving treatments for patients.
“It’s incredible that there remains so much uncertainty for the NHS more than two years after the Brexit vote. We need urgent guidance from the Health Secretary about what action he’s going to take to protect NHS patients from this botched Tory Brexit.”
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