The government has announced 'no deal' contingency plans designed to protect healthcare access for UK nationals living in the European Union for a short time after Brexit.

People already living in the EU who have their healthcare funded by the UK, including pensioners and students, will have their healthcare costs covered for six months should the country leave under a 'no deal' scenario.

The government has also committed to covering the costs of UK nationals in the EU who are in the middle of treatment when the UK leaves the EU, for up to a year, and ensure that people currently insured by the UK living in the EU can return to use the NHS temporarily in England, Wales and Scotland free of charge.

Responding to the government’s announcement, Dr Layla McCay, director of International Relations at the NHS Confederation, said it “will provide some reassurance that most won’t have to pay for their healthcare costs immediately after Brexit”.

But she went on to stress that “it’s only a temporary measure and the best way of guaranteeing that patients are protected in future will be through a negotiated deal.

“We now need reassurance in other areas such as the UK’s continued participation in key data sharing platforms that protect the public from health threats, and recognising the authorisations of medicines and medical goods to keep medical supplies flowing.

“This will be best achieved through a negotiated deal but at the very least we will need a mini deal, or technical adjustments to keep both UK and EU patients safe.”