The co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance, Niall Dickson, has welcomed the ambition of the government's Brexit white paper but warned that execution will be key.
“The ambition is fine – but we await the execution," said Dickson, who is Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation. "Patients in the UK and Europe need to know that they will get their drugs on time, that vital medical research will not be disrupted and that they will continue to get the healthcare they need while on holiday or travelling for work."
“These are not theoretical possibilities, they are real risks which can and must be resolved in the negotiations. We have consistently called for assurances on all these matters and we welcome the government’s clear ambition to deal with them.
He added: “We also welcome the commitment to maintaining the highest standards of health protection after the UK leaves the EU. Maximum co-operation to control infectious diseases and other public health threats is a ‘no brainer’. But these are complex and wide-ranging negotiations and there is always a danger that health issues are not kept to the fore.
“We should be under no illusions of the consequences for patients if we fail to plan properly and do not reach a good agreement. That could result in a significant threat to the health of both UK and EU citizens.
“Planning is underway at the centre of government, but it will be important for the sake of patients that NHS hospitals, clinics and community services are all prepared for every possible scenario.”
The Brexit Health Alliance brings together the NHS, medical research, industry, patients and public health organisations, with the aim to safeguard the interests of patients and the healthcare and research they rely on during the Brexit negotiations.
The Alliance is working to ensure that issues such as healthcare research, access to technologies and treatment of patients are given the prominence and attention they deserve in the Brexit negotiations, and argues that it is in both Europe and the UK’s interests to maintain co-operation in research and in handling public health issues. It has also called on the UK government to make sure there is a commitment to medical research and providing alternative funding, and that UK citizens’ right to receive healthcare in EU countries is preserved.