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With such high political stakes, it was always inevitable the NHS would be drawn into the increasingly tight control surrounding Brexit communications.
So it is really no surprise that diktats from the Department of Health and Social Care about Brexit-related messages are insisting arm’s-length bodies must toe the line coming out of Downing Street.
Back in February, the ALBs – which include NHS England – were told all communications must go through a DHSC approval process and could be bumped up to the Department for Exiting the EU for extra scrutiny.
Now they have been told to make sure such communications are “aligned” to the government’s latest core messages, which will be distributed each week, presumably to allow for subtle shifts.
While phrases such as “anti-democratic backstop” – a catchy extract from the latest briefing – are unlikely to feature in many NHS press releases, there may be a wider issue of these bodies feeling gagged on the implications of Brexit, particularly the no-deal variety, for the NHS.
Very little is known about many trusts’ assessments of the impact of Brexit. In March, HSJ revealed the DHSC had told trusts how to respond to Freedom of Information requests for their risk assessments (basically, with a refusal).
HSJ readers were, as ever, swift to respond to the latest story and made it quite clear what they thought of it. Several pointed out their duty was to their patients above all else. As the threat of a no-deal Brexit increases, expect more healthcare practitioners and managers to be vocal about what this means for their ability to provide the care their patients need.
Better to give and maybe receive
Proposals to scrap restrictions on the number of patients who can sign up to Babylon GP at Hand’s new service in Birmingham were given the green light from the primary care commissioning committee of Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group on Tuesday.
As of 15 September, an unlimited number of patients will be able to sign up to video GP consultations in the city, provided a satisfactory screening system is in place to ensure new patients are offered tests, such as cervical smears, in their local area.
The move is a key moment for the controversial digital practice’s expansion in Birmingham. It’s also an incredibly generous decision by the committee, given it is one which is likely to put more pressure on the CCG’s budget.
Despite having patients registered from across London and Birmingham, Babylon GP at Hand operates out of a single practice in Fulham. This means Hammersmith and Fulham CCG is financially responsible for all of the patients the tech company signs up, regardless of where they call home.
NHS England is consulting on plans which would require digital primary care services, such as GP at Hand, to establish new GP contracts and clinics in each area they wish to be a major provider. If the plans go ahead, this should offer some relief to Hammersmith and Fulham.