Report urges action to avoid negative Brexit impact on Kent's health care

9 March 2018

A new report into the impact of Brexit upon health and social care provision in Kent and Medway paints an alarming picture, if authorities don’t take immediate action to combat the challenges the county is facing.

Kent and Medway Health and Social Care: A Brexit Impact Assessment, by Canterbury Christ Church University’s Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS), draws on its in-depth interviews with key healthcare stakeholders from across the region to assess the impact that Brexit could have upon the health and social care provision in the count, during the transition period, and beyond.

The findings of the report highlight both the potentially negative impacts of Brexit, as well as opportunities. It also makes specific recommendations to both local and national decision-makers, calling on them to look swiftly at workforce issues, public health requirements, and regulatory structures connecting British and European healthcare.

Decision-makers are urged in particular to take seriously the current drop in EU-sourced health and social care labour and act immediately to ensure that health and social care provisions in Kent and Medway are better supported. Failing to do so will have an acute impact on both general services and patient care.

Medium to longer termchallenges indicate a need to think strategically about retaining or reframing regulations around licensing of drugs, collaborative public health structures, and joint funding issues. Many issues will clearly require support from central government through amended, or entirely new government policy.

Workforce however, is key. A recent House of Commons Library papers revealed that after London, the combined South East counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex had the third highest EU labour force in the NHS at 8.1%.

NHS staffing in Kent and Medway, both high and low skilled, depends on the critical mass of EU nationals who choose to train and remain within the NHS.

Numbers of current EU staff however are already dropping, against a backdrop of falling EU health and social care staff entering the UK.  

Professor Amelia Hadfield, Director of CEFEUS and co-author of the report, explained: “There is evidence that the numbers of other EU nationals applying for nursing places in the UK has fallen very sharply. The British Medical Association for example has suggested this may as high as 90%.

“Patterns are certainly emerging. While not yet definitive, there is a connection between the uncertain labour environment caused by Brexit, and the increase in EU national leaving key sectors across the UK. If this continues, this will have a major impact on health and social care trusts’ ability to both retain, and attract key health and social care workers.

“It is clear that principles for a new immigration system need to be clarified as a very early Brexit priority, rather than at the tail-end of the transition period, ensuring that national and local healthcare providers can both recruit and retain the staff it needs both from the EU, and beyond.

“Projections of Kent’s demographic features, which includes a higher proportion of people over 65, as well as key areas of socio-economic deprivation, suggest increasing rather than decreasing pressures on NHS and social care services in the medium and long term. Absent a reliable, skilled workforce able to support population and patient needs, what emerges is a bleak picture in terms of health and social care provision and associated quality of life for key groups in across Kent and Medway.”

Other areas that the report highlights include public health, where authorities need to ensure that there is no gap in the co-operation between the UK and the EU on planning for, and if needed, tackling pandemics and related public health emergencies. The report suggests this would need to be delivered through a new membership, or association agreement between the UK and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The Health and Life Sciences sector, a UK success story with a turnover of £60billion and exports of around £30billion, is mostly regulated through an EU system. This includes medicines testing and trials, licensing and drug safety regimes, and the current movement of products to and from the UK. Currently, companies developing new drugs know that securing regulatory approval from the EU wide medicines agency will mean they can sell their product across all 28 countries.

The report says it will be difficult to assess the extent to which the UK’s medical and pharmaceutical industry will continue to be regulated by EU laws once the UK leaves the EU. A large part of this depends on whether the UK will continue to be part of the European single market and support free movement of medicinal product. The most likely outcome is that companies seeking to launch new products will have to apply separately for regulatory approval in the UK and in the EU. This will introduce delays to the system and may be detrimental to drug launches in the UK, as companies may prioritise applying for regulatory approval in the considerably larger EU market.

To ensure that UK research continues its world-leading role alongside European partners in working with and delivering research and development in medical science, the report recommends that the UK government must offer clarity as to how Britain will retain its place as one of the world lead innovators and a design a clear plan as to how a renewed pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector post-Brexit can assist in pushing forward cutting-edge research in medicine, and medical technologies that benefit both EU and UK citizens.

The report is the third to be issued by CEFEUS looking at the potential impact Brexit could have upon Kent and Medway. The previous two reports focused on making Brexit a success and small and medium business and the rural economy.

Kent and Medway: Health and Social Care a Brexit Impact Assessment was launched at Westminster on Tuesday, 6 March 2018 at an event hosted by Rose Duffield MP for Canterbury.

You can read the report here.

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with 16,000 students across Kent and Medway. Its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • Over 94% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2015/16 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 13/03/2018 17:35:00