A new report, by independent think tank the Nuffield Trust, warns that a ‘no deal’ Brexit will cause “substancial problems” for the NHS and that patient care suffer. It suggests that medicinal products, staff, industry and innovation would be impacted and examines five key areas which would impact the provision of health and social care in UK should agreements not be reached with the European Union. These are:
- The approval of medicines and devices;
- The regulation of science and health care;
- The general trading arrangements;
- Our participation in EU health and science programmes;
- Reciprocal health care programmes.
If negotiations in these areas are mishandled and deals not met, the NHS’s functionality could be “seriously undermined”, however, it is stated that “many of these issues – though not all – can be addressed if the UK and the EU reach careful, successful exit and trade deals”.
Should the UK leave without any agreement there would be risk of “chaotic disruption” to the supply of medicinal products and the resulting increase in prices would overwhelm an already overstressed NHS and increase hospital deficit.
Vital procedures provided across the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would no longer be accessible which could “risk forcing tens of thousands of pensioners to return to seek care in an NHS which has no room for them.”
It is stated that access to the latest treatments would be reduced, medical research would be damaged and the risk of vital supplies decaying at the border would be increased should trade and cooperation arrangements fail to be met regardless of whether an exit deal is agreed.
The report also examines where the NHS may have more flexibility after Brexit and what benefits this may bring. It identifies areas such as medicines approval, life science regulation, and the Working Time Directive that have the potential for increased opportunity following Brexit, however, it is stated that “in general, continued regulatory alignment will bring the most certain benefits”.