• “Top lines from the core EU exit script” to be circulated on email every week
  • Latest briefing stressed UK would be leaving EU on 31 October “whatever the circumstances”
  • Memo also detailed government’s stance on EU nationals working in the UK 

NHS arm’s-length bodies, including NHS England, have been told to make sure all their communications are “aligned” to the government’s stance on Brexit.

A memo from the Department of Health and Social Care to all ALBs explains that they will be sent Downing Street’s “top lines from the core EU exit script” on email every week. 

The memo, seen by HSJ, added: “Please can you use this script to ensure that all comms you are compiling are aligned to this script before sending them to DHSC for clearance.”

The latest briefing – released on 14 August and labelled “Brexit – media and diplomatic script” –  stressed the UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October “whatever the circumstances”, although it went on to say the preference was to leave with a deal and government “will work in an energetic and determined way to get that better deal”.

However, it continued: “If it is not possible to reach a deal, we will have to leave with no deal. We will make all necessary preparations to do so. All necessary funding will be make available. In these circumstances, we will of course have the extra lubrication of the money committed to in the Withdrawal Agreement.”

The memo also detailed the government’s stance on the rights of EU nationals working in the UK – many of whom work for the NHS and social care. The briefing stated: “We are making an unequivocal guarantee to the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us. They will have the absolute legal certainty of the right to live and remain in the UK and their status will never be used as a bargaining chip.”

The briefing also outlined the government’s view on the “anti-democratic” backstop. 

In February this year, ALBs were told to submit every text, tweet, email, phone call and press release which touched on Brexit to the DHSC for clearance, with some being passed up to ministers and the Department of Exiting the European Union for approval.

ALBs were told to follow the clearance process after NHS Blood and Transplant Authority cancelled some blood donor sessions in Kent around the anticipated date of Brexit in March to avoid potential traffic disruption.

This latest email builds on those instructions. However, the emphasis is now on making sure communications are in line with the government’s stance on a no-deal Brexit, including making rapid changes should the government make progress in negotiations with the EU.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “We are committed to preparing the entire health and care system for Brexit on 31 October and that includes ensuring our ALBs have the latest and most accurate information from central government when communicating with the public.

“Government departments routinely clear external messaging of their ALBs and this is part of well-established assurance processes.”

DHSC ALBs include the Care Quality Commission, NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.