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

Brexit is just business as usual for the NHS, it seems.

Speaking at the chief nursing officer’s summit in Birmingham this week, NHS England chief Simon Stevens urged delegates to keep their cool. “What we have got to ensure is, regardless of what our Parliament produces, the NHS does what it always does brilliantly, which is to carry on in a well-organised, thoughtful fashion – there when people need us, taking the necessary action as it arises, but without losing our heads,” he said.

The tone had a hint of Hancock about it. In an interview with Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy last week, the health secretary refused to grant a guarantee that nobody would die off of the back of a no-deal Brexit, adding: “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.”

Keeping calm and carrying on, then. (Mr Hancock also spoke at the CNO summit, but HSJ feels this has already been extensively covered on Twitter).

Two letters

Mr Stevens’ speech may have also let slip the reason for his unfazed demeanour: “We will obviously be having to work very closely together over the next several weeks and months as we see precisely how the Brexit debate, and our exit position, if that is what we are doing, unfolds.”

It may be only two letters, but that “if” suggests the NHS England chief has his doubts the UK will successfully extract itself from the EU bloc. 

He may be onto something. The day after his speech, MPs voted to kick the can a little further down the road and seek a delay to Brexit

Food glorious food

Much has been said about the issues surrounding the supply and pricing of medicines and medical devices in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but less so about food supplied to hospitals.

And in another welcome break from the messages of panic, it seems there may not be too much to worry about. Stewart McKenzie, chair of the Hospital Caterers Association, told HSJ he did not expect there to be any major disruption. That said, he added: “It is an important factor for care caterers to be able to get the foods they need at stable prices but like everyone else we expect there to be some volatility in the short to medium term.”

Mr McKenzie’s words suggest considered caution rather than panic stations. But it is worth noting the international trade secretary announced earlier this week that a temporary tariff regime would be put in place for up to 12 months, including a mixture of tariffs and quotas for “beef, sheep meat, poultry, pig meat, butter and some cheeses”, if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, and all this is likely to cause some turbulence.