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Government publishes ‘No-deal Brexit’ guidance

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published guidance and a letter to providers regarding potential ‘No-deal Brexit’ issues on 21/12/18. The documents discuss seven key areas, outlining government preparations and asks providers to carry out certain actions. The document distinguishes between actions required of all providers and additional actions for NHS providers.

According to the guidance all providers must consider and plan for the risks that may arise do to a ‘no deal’ exit as follows:

  • Undertake an assessment of risks associated with EU Exit covering the seven key areas, potential increase in demand and locally specific risks, by the end of January 2019 (All practices)
  • Based on your risk assessment, continue business continuity planning in line with your legal requirements and test these plans by the end of February 2019 (All practices)
  • Nominate a Senior Responsible Officer and identify them to your regional EU Exit team as soon as possible (NHS practices only)
  • Report any issues you have identified as having a potentially widespread impact to your regional EU Exit team (NHS practices only)
  • Regional EU Exit teams will most likely be in touch with NHS providers to discuss progress on risk assessment and business continuity planning.

Key areas
The seven key areas of priority that should be considered in risk assessing and continuity planning are:

  • Supply of medicines and vaccines
  • Supply of medical devices and clinical consumables
  • Supply of non-clinical consumables, goods and services
  • Workforce
  • Reciprocal healthcare
  • Research and clinical trials
  • Data sharing

Other key messages
The guidance encourages providers to assess the impact of a ‘no deal’ scenario on the staffing levels of EU team members and to promote the EU Settlement Scheme where necessary. For more information on the scheme see our article on the topic.

Providers are instructed not to stockpile medicines beyond normal levels, not to provide longer prescriptions and to discourage patients from stockpiling medicines at home.

CODE’s position
The CQC has clarified, in its mythbuster on the topic, that business continuity plans whilst highly advised, are not an absolute legal requirement of the Health and Social Care Act, so we are unsure as to why DHSC has referred to updating them as a ‘must’ in this guidance.

The timeframes given in the guidance also seem slightly unrealistic, but as official government guidance, providers could potentially be held to account if they do not follow the requirements and are later found to have caused detriment to patients. The legal status of this guidance is currently unclear, and CODE is carrying out research, including contacting the CQC and NHS, to determine what providers are legally required to do, if anything.

Next steps
We advise, that as a minimum, our members review the guidance, paying special attention to the ‘actions for providers’ section and consider the risks associated with the seven key areas. NHS providers may wish to contact their Regional Team or the EU Exit Team for more information.

CODE members may wish to update their Disaster Planning and Emergency Procedures (M 255) in iComply, adding each of the seven points as a separate row in order to contingency plan. We are currently reviewing whether we feel this is necessary and will update our template if we determine that it is a requirement.