HSJ brings you an end-of-week fix of Brexit roundup health news

NHS trust leaders must surely be getting used to hearing about what they need to do to prepare for Brexit by now. This week’s variation on a theme comes in the form of data, with NHS England and NHS Improvement recently writing a letter asking organisations to complete a self-audit before the end of March.

For those tempted to wait until the due date, the letter also argued “completing it early will enable health and adult social care providers to more quickly identify and address any vulnerabilities”.

The request stems from the concern that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK will become a “third country” under data sharing standards. There is a risk some flows of personal data from the EU could be restricted until a formal agreement is made.

The European Data Protection Board is currently deliberating whether flows can continue unrestricted, which could eliminate the risk. However, NHS Digital has cautioned against banking on a final decision on this before 29 March. 

Just 13 out of 233 trusts have ticked the task off their to-do list, despite the tool kit for doing so having been available since April last year. But they’re in good company – NHSE, NHSI and NHS Digital are also among those yet to complete the audit. 

As good as possible

Meanwhile, Matt Hancock has once again declined to guarantee nobody will die off the back of a no-deal Brexit. The person asking for reassurance this time around was Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who was interviewing the health secretary about mental health.  

But, according to Mr Hancock, guarantee is a bit of a dirty word. He said: “We don’t use the word guarantee in the NHS because one of the jobs of health secretary, the job of the whole NHS is to deal with things that you don’t wish to happen and make them as good as possible.” 

At what cost?

Speaking of politics, on Thursday, the House of Lords was tasked with examining five statutory instruments preparing for Brexit, covering health and social care European professional qualifications, European qualifications for pharmacists, human medicines, clinical trials and medical devices. But the peers struggled with their debate, as these proposals lacked impact assessments and costings.

Lord Deben was most unimpressed with the lack of fiscal detail, remarking: “I am afraid that I am a Conservative, and I am always interested in costs—I like to know how much it costs.”

There was also anger and indignation across the house, with peers stressing the unnecessary worry Brexit is causing those in the health sector. Baroness Thornton summarised the anxiety as affecting “not only to us in the Chamber but to millions of people outside”.

The recently promoted Baroness Blackwood, the health minister in the Lords, explained that “these SIs come into force only if there is a no-deal exit”.

She continued: ”Should there be an extension of Article 50, they would not come into force until or if there is a no-deal exit, which is…something the government are seeking to avoid.”

All the motions were approved by the House.