• NHS England chief says it is important “NHS does what it always does brilliantly”
  • More than half a million supply lines have been scrutinised ahead of Brexit

The NHS must not lose its head in the event of a no-deal Brexit and should “carry on in a well-organised, thoughtful fashion”, Simon Stevens has said.

Speaking today at the chief nursing officer’s summit in Birmingham, the chief executive of NHS England said: “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.

“That is what our fellow citizens are looking to us to do, just as we do at times of national emergency. 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.”

Mr Stevens’ words came as MPs prepared to vote on whether or not to pursue a no-deal exit from the European Union. 

Speaking of the NHS’ preparations for the UK leaving the EU without a deal, Mr Stevens said: “The principle issues for the immediate term is ensuring continuity of supply and that has involved scrutinising 12,300 licensed medicines, more than half a million different supply lines for clinical consumables, diagnostic devices and other inputs we require.”

The NHSE chief executive also drew a connection between Brexit and the NHS’s 70th birthday celebrations last year. He said: “The Brexit story is not just a story of Parliamentary process. It is a story of the debate this country is having about its own future, that is what was crystallised in the celebration of the NHS’ 70th birthday last July.

“At a time when there were lots of other things pulling the country apart, the country came together and said, actually, 70 years on, the reason for an NHS is as powerful now as it was on the 5 July 1948, and the NHS is actually now more popular than it was when it was created.”

He warned, however, that the additional funding secured from government was “not the land of milk and honey” and it was “still going to require many pragmatic judgements”.

No substitute for graduate nurses – Stevens