The Brexit Health Alliance is warning that patients could be at risk if their interests are not protected in negotiations over the UK’s departure from the European Union.
The recently-formed group, which consists of a range of NHS, medical research, industry, patients and public health organisations, is urging negotiators to ensure that issues such as healthcare research and access to new medicines are given prominence during talks.
“There are great opportunities but also great dangers in these negotiations,” said Niall Dickson, co-chair of the Alliance and chief executive of the NHS Confederation.
“Patients stand to lose out if we cannot go on collaborating in major medical research studies; if we cannot access new treatments and medical devices as we do now; and if UK nationals in the EU are no longer able to benefit from access to healthcare abroad, and vice versa. It is also vital that there is a firm commitment on all sides to joint co-ordination in response to public health threats.”
The Alliance has now outlined what it sees as five areas of priority for the negotiations:
Securing maximum levels of research and innovation collaboration, so that UK patients, the public, researchers and organisations can take part in pan-European research and innovation networks and clinical trials and that these can be supported by UK involvement in EU funding programmes. Also UK patients should be able to benefit from the UK leading and participating in European Reference Networks for rare and complex diseases post Brexit, and any new immigration system must be straightforward and welcoming to researchers, innovators, and their families, at all career stages and from all over the world;
Aligning regulatory systems for the benefit of patients and population health. Negotiators must ensure that patients and the public do not suffer from possible disruptions in the supply and trade of medicines/technologies/goods or a reduction of standards or patient safety, and that they have early access to new medicines and medical devices by securing maximum cooperation and alignment with the EU on the regulation of medicines and medical devices. Finding pragmatic solutions to allow patients and the public to benefit from the UK’s participation in EU systems such as data sharing networks, pharmacovigilance and the clinical trials portal and databases post Brexit is also key;
Preserving reciprocal healthcare arrangements, so that UK nationals in the EU and vice versa can benefit from access to healthcare abroad. If this is not possible, provisions should be made domestically for the planning and funding of healthcare for UK nationals currently in the EU and vice versa, but with no increased burden for UK healthcare providers if they have to handle new, more complex administrative and funding processes when providing care to EU citizens;
Setting in place mechanisms for co-ordinating on public health and wellbeing, so that there is strong coordination between the UK and the EU in dealing with pandemics, as well as other health threats, and also on health promotion and disease prevention programmes, possibly via a newly-created EU-UK joint coordination mechanism on public health issues; and
A strong funding commitment to the health and public health sectors, to secure high standards of population health and wellbeing and patient care through a strong focus on prevention of ill health and ensure that any possible shortfall resulting from the economic impact of leaving the EU is offset.
“We hope that the publication of these five priority areas will help support the government to achieve the best result for patients and for healthcare across the UK,” Dickson said.
“There is a huge amount of expertise within the Alliance and we urge the Government to make good use of this to make sure that these vital issues affecting the health and wellbeing of everyone in the UK are not forgotten alongside all the other issues in the negotiations.”