Govt Hails 'Brilliant' EU Staff in NHS as Brexit Fee is Scrapped

Peter Russell

January 22, 2019

The Government announced it would scrap a proposed £65 fee payable by EU citizens who wanted to remain in the UK after Brexit, in what could be a valuable step for NHS staff living and working in the UK.

Speaking in the Commons, the Prime Minister Theresa May, said she would "waive the application fee so there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who want to stay".

The Government’s EU Settlement Scheme requires all EU nationals and their family members who want to stay in the UK after Britain leaves the EU to register before 30th June 2021.

NHS Employers said although there was no obligation for EU citizens to register at this stage, participation in a public testing scheme that began this week would lead to them gaining pre-settled or settled status ahead of when the scheme starts in March this year.

Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, tweeted: "We value all the brilliant EU staff who work in the NHS and social care. I’m delighted we’re waiving the application fee for EU settled status – so all can stay, deal or no-deal."

Supply of Medicines

GPs would prescribe the best alternative to a patient's medication in the event of supply problems caused by a 'no-deal' Brexit, the Government said.

Around three-quarters of the medicines and over half the devices and one-use medical products, including syringes, used by the NHS come into the UK via the European Union (EU).

In a policy paper update, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it had analysed the supply chain, made plans to reduce the risk of disruption, and given instructions to pharmaceutical companies to ensure they had adequate stocks to cope with any potential delays at the border.

As a result it remained confident "that if everyone does what they should do", supplies of medicines and other medical equipment would be uninterrupted if the UK left the EU without a deal.

The DHSC said that the system, in which a GP or pharmacist supplied the best alternative to a patient's usual medication, was a tried and tested practice that had previously been used during temporary shortages of specific medicines.

Ash Soni, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told Medscape News UK: "We’ve been talking to the Government about contingency planning. They have communicated clearly when needed and just last Friday the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer outlined contingency protocols, guidance, and legislation in preparation for a no-deal Brexit in a letter to all pharmacists."

Last month, the Government warned of up to 6 months of reduced access and delays at Dover and Folkestone if the UK left the EU on the 29th March without a deal. As a result, it was putting in place additional contingency plans to ensure the continued supply of medicines in the event of a "worst case scenario".

In August, the DHSC said it had asked pharmaceutical companies who supplied NHS patients with medicines from, or via, the EU or EEA, to ensure they had a minimum of 6 weeks' additional supply in the UK, over and above their business-as-usual buffer stocks.

It was drawing up plans to prioritise imports of medicines and medical products through alternative roll-on, roll-off ports other than the short Channel crossings to Dover and Folkestone, it said.

Last Friday, reports emerged of local stockpiling of medicines due to increased concerns over the outcome of Brexit negotiations and the parliamentary stalemate over Theresa May's deal.

Reciprocal Healthcare Arrangements

MPs passed legislation on Monday night that would pave the way for UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, to continue with reciprocal healthcare benefits.

After Brexit, regardless of the deal reached, the government would need to renegotiate reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the EU, or with individual states. The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill would give the Government those powers.

Proposing a second reading in the Commons, Stephen Barclay, minister for health and social care, said: "It is clearly in the interests of the British public to ensure reciprocal healthcare arrangements continue when we leave the EU."

The measure faces further parliamentary scrutiny. However, Matt Hancock described it on Twitter as "an important step for delivering Brexit".


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