• Providers and commissioners must nominate a board member responsible for Brexit preparation
  • Anxiety about staff or members of the public stockpiling
  • National operational response centre being established as staff assigned to Brexit readiness

All NHS organisations must nominate a senior responsible officer for Brexit preparation as soon as possible, the Department of Health and Social Care has said.

In new guidance published today, the DHSC said the role should be held by a board member. They must also all make sure they have updated their business continuity plans to factor in all potential fallout from a ‘no deal’ exit, the guidance says.

The EU Exit Operational Readiness Guidance covers seven areas in which the government is focusing “no deal” planning in health and care, says each organisation should assess whether it has incurred a reduction in the number of EU nationals in the workforce before the UK leaves the EU, and publicise the EU settlement scheme, under which they can apply to remain.

Organisations are also expected to undertake local risk assessments to identify any staff groups or services that may be vulnerable or unsustainable if there is a shortfall of EU nationals.

Providers should also review capacity and activity plans “as well as annual leave” around 29 March, the guidance said.

In terms of medicines supply, the guidance said the government has agreed it will be prioritised, and stockpiling organised centrally will be supplemented by “additional national actions”.

However, supply chain will be reliant on decisions by the Department of Transport in addition to the DHSC and NHS.

Today’s guidance reiterates previous instructions from the health secretary that medicines should not be stockpiled locally.

HSJ understands national NHS leaders are seriously concerned some staff or parts of the UK may begin stockpiling particular medicines – or letting patients stockpile them – which could lead to shortages elsewhere. Local NHS chief executives said senior national figures had this week shown “anxiety” and “serious worry” about the potential consequences of Brexit. They were also told that some 200 staff in NHS England and NHS Improvement are being assigned to work on Brexit readiness.

The DHSC has established an “operational response centre” to help in the event of disruption, and said NHS England and NHS Improvement will establish an “operational support structure”. This will provide “rapid support” on local incidents and “escalation of issues” if required.

Regional NHS E and I teams have been tasked with providing “regional oversight” if there is a “no deal” Brexit, and ensure instructions are being followed by providers and commissioners.

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