Brexit and beyond – healthier alone?

by Dean Sowman

The polls have closed and the outcome is clear. The UK has chosen to ‘take back control’ and leave the European Union.

What’s also clear is that this decision will be felt across the whole of our NHS and life sciences industry, which have broadly benefited from being members of the union through direct funding and investment (the EU gave us £7bn in science funding alone between 2007 and 2013), collaborative research and free movement of people.

With Brexit chosen, and the triggering of Article 50 looming on the horizon, we now enter a transition phase of at least two years. This will be a period of significant uncertainty and unprecedented challenges in the health sector.

In the short term we can expect the government and civil service to put a halt on big-ticket policies. Announcements that the government were keeping on the shelf until after the referendum will now each be considered in turn to ensure their applicability and relevance within a new system.

The long-anticipated Accelerated Access Review, for instance, which was delayed until after the referendum, may be kicked into the long grass, with its publication dependent upon new arrangements for regulating medicines. After all, how can we attempt to accelerate access to new medicines, if the health sector faces having to deal with separate UK and EU regulation?

And in the longer term, the role of Parliament is likely to focus on untangling EU regulations from UK legislation. Despite the Prime Minister, David Cameron’s reassurances in his resignation statement about achieving the legislation laid out in the Queen’s Speech, the priority of Parliament will be to achieve an agreeable ‘conscious uncoupling’ from the Union.

The means of achieving this, whether it be through enshrining current EU regulations to go beyond the Brexit date, or looking to re-implement pre-EU statutes, largely depends on who becomes the new Prime Minister, and pressure from across the party.

However, amidst this uncertainty within our sector, let us be assured of the sureties: hospitals will still stand. The NHS will still continue to treat patients. Life sciences companies will still pioneer new and innovative treatments. Medicines will still require approval and introduction.

Ensuring rapid access to innovative technologies for patients will still be the fundamental goal. But the ‘what next’ and the ‘how’ pathways are still to be shaped.

To help provide some clarity in this turbulent environment, MHP Health shines a light on the key considerations for the health sector.

The impact of Brexit on: