NHS ‘in the dark’ over Brexit, says health select committee chair

Sarah Wollaston, chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, has said that the government is doing “little to provide certainty for UK patients” in terms of how Brexit will affect medicines and medical devices.

EU flags in Brussels, Belgium

The NHS is planning “in the dark” for Brexit because the government continues to refuse to publish its own contingency plans for when the UK leaves the EU, Sarah Wollaston, chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, has said.

After the government issued a response to the health committee’s report on how Brexit would affect medicines and medical devices, Wollaston said the government was “full of good intentions, but does little to provide certainty for UK patients, the NHS and businesses”.

“The government continues to assert that publishing their contingency plans will damage the UK’s interests,” she added. “Our view remains that the publication of contingency planning would strengthen, rather than damage, the UK’s negotiating position.

“The clock is ticking for businesses and NHS services who are already enacting plans, and doing so in the dark, to ensure that patients in the UK and Europe do not experience a disruption to the supply of medicines and medical products.”

The health committee’s original report, published in March 2018, warned that patient access to new drugs, patient safety and future investment in the life science industry were all at risk if the UK failed to maintain regulatory alignment with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after Brexit.

It also warned that regulatory divergence from the EU could lead to patients experiencing delays in receiving new treatments and waiting longer to access generic drugs coming off patent.

In its response to the health committee’s report, published in May 2018, the government reiterated its desire to remain part of EU agencies, including the EMA, and it said the chances of a “no deal” Brexit had receded.

But Wollaston said that government statements on future UK participation in the EMA, and assurances on maintaining current regulatory requirements during a Brexit transition period, “do little to provide the certainty businesses, the NHS, and UK patients need”.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2018, Vol 300, No 7914;300(7914):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204915

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