Healthcare bodies including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have called on the Prime Minister to put healthcare ‘at the heart’ of its strategy for leaving the EU, it was announced today (22 August).
In a letter signed by 17 health organisations spanning from the Royal College of Physicians to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, RCN director of nursing, policy and practice Bronagh Scott joined with other leaders to say that the health secretary must be included in the Brexit strategy committee.
The letter said: ‘We are writing to ask you to put patient safety and protecting the nation’s health at the heart of Brexit negotiations by inviting the secretary of state for health and social care to join the ‘EU exit strategy’ committee.’
‘Significant concerns about shortages’
The healthcare bodies feel ‘unable to reassure patients’ that Brexit will not have a detrimental impact on their health and care, the letter added.
It said: ‘Despite welcome ongoing engagement with DHSC, we still have significant concerns about shortages of medical supplies.
‘Delays at our borders could exacerbate current supply issues and create the very real possibility that life-saving medication and devices are delayed from making it into the UK.’
This month, the Government announced it had set aside £450m to prevent medicine shortages in the event of a no-deal scenario.
As an employer of over 1.2 million people and provider of one billion prescriptions and over 400 million face-face appointments every year, the NHS must be included in no-deal negotiations as a matter of ‘urgency’, the letter added.
It said: ‘The implications of a no-deal exit from the EU for the NHS and wider health and care system must be considered at the highest levels of your government’s decision making.
‘If not properly planned for, even the smallest of problems could have huge consequences for the lives and wellbeing of millions of people and our economy.’
Flu season ‘pressure’
The Government must prepare for the 31 October EU exit date coinciding with the ‘additional pressure’ flu season puts on the NHS, the letter added.
The letter said: ‘The need for preparedness is compounded by the fact that we are scheduled to leave the EU, potentially on a no-deal basis, just as flu and the winter season begins.
‘Even a “moderate” flu season places significant additional pressure on the NHS. Your EU exit strategy must include provision for different flu scenarios, and the secretary of state is well placed to coordinate that.’