• NHS leaders urge ministers to publish “up to date planning assumptions” for no-deal
  • Also calls for UK-EU “mini deal” on health to protect health under no-deal exit

NHS chiefs have urged ministers to publish their up-to-date plans for a no-deal Brexit, in the wake of the release of Project Yellowhammer documents.

Ministers published the short but controversial five-page document on the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit, titled Operation Yellowhammer “HMG reasonable worst case planning assumptions” last night.

NHS Confederation’s director of international relations Layla McCay told HSJ: “What we really need is not to be working off a document that’s five weeks old.

“We need to see the most up to date planning assumptions and work out where we are up to now.”

The Department for Health and Social Care “has probably done as much as it can do to make sure there won’t be shortages” but fundamental concerns remained about other areas on which ministers had made little information available, she said.

There are no reciprocal healthcare deals confirmed, and no details on mitigation of fresh food shortages or animal medicines, which the Yellowhammer report said could lead to human diseases, she said.

“Yellowhammer also raised concerns about social care providers going out of business as a result of inflation related to Brexit.

“It would be helpful to see more up-to-date projections [on this]. If that happens, it will of course create a real problem for the many, many thousands of people and a real extra challenge for the NHS,” she said.

The Confederation – which represents NHS organisations and has close links to national NHS leaders – has also called for a “mini-deal” agreement with the European Union to be in place in the event of an overall “no deal”. This should cover flow and authorisations of medicines, reciprocal healthcare deals, and sharing data on health threats, it said.

Ms McCay explained such a deal would most likely take the form of a so-called “technical adjustment” – a type of special contingency arrangement for a no-deal which has already been agreed for the transport and fisheries sectors.

“A technical adjustment for health would demonstrate the EU’s commitment to doing everything possible to protect the lives and wellbeing of citizens both in the UK and the rest of Europe,” she said.

The Nuffield Trust’s head of public affairs and Brexit expert Mark Dayan warned this would be “a big ask legally and politically for the EU”, however.

He said: “This looks like a good idea and I do think it would be better for patients here and in the EU.

“But although it’s a little bit hard to bottom out the details, there would be obstacles to the EU agreeing to many of these points. It would be a big ask legally and politically for the EU to accept UK approvals for devices, let alone medicines authorisations.”

He added: “It’s not clear to me that the EU has the power to regulate how member states conduct reciprocal healthcare with the UK once we are no longer members. The sharing of data, I would hope, continue under particular arrangements based on the discretion that exists.”

The Yellowhammer summary report which was published yesterday has sparked calls from opposition politicians for ministers to publish the larger reports from individual departments which fed into it.

Questions were also raised about why the title appeared to have been amended since a version was leaked to the Sunday Times last month which said the document was predicated on a “base scenario” not “worse case” scenario.