Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS European Office which is part of the NHS Confederation, provides an overview of the organisation's work in the run up to the triggering of Article 50.
Our office, the NHS European Office, is located in the heart of the EU area of Brussels, a five-minute walk from the main buildings of the EU institutions where decision-makers meet regularly.
Established in 2007, the NHS European Office, part of the NHS Confederation, is the vehicle for the NHS to engage with the EU agenda. We enable the NHS to speak with one voice in Brussels on legislation and policy. We also exist to promote and facilitate access to EU funds for NHS organisations and to support knowledge sharing on successful practices and models from European counterparts.
As you might expect, since 24 June last year, with the result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, it has not been business as usual. We have been fully engaged with both NHS bodies and decision makers here in Brussels to assist the NHS to prepare for the changes that will come from exiting the EU. Crucially, this means we’ve been providing analysis on the far-reaching and subtle effects Brexit could have on the health sector, beyond the purely economic considerations.
There are three priority areas for the NHS during Brexit negotiations.
The first is ensuring we can reduce uncertainty for EU staff currently employed by the NHS and make sure sustainable workforce supply and standards of care are maintained post Brexit.
The second is that we also want to ensure the NHS can continue to remain a world leader in international health research collaborations. We’re analysing the impact that leaving the EU will have on the way the NHS gets involved in international clinical trials, and the availability of funds it has to do so.
Finally, we’re busy researching how life out of the single market, and the common rules and standards with the EU, could impact NHS patients’ access to innovation, such as medicines and medical devices, which are currently approved under an EU-wide system. We don’t want NHS patients to have slower access to innovation than other areas of Europe.
The government has given a clear idea of the kind of relationship it would like with the EU going forward, and its priorities, in a recent white paper. It now remains to be seen how much can be achieved during the negotiations.
With this in mind, we have launched a brand new Brexit bulletin. This tailor-made briefing is designed specifically to keep you updated with the most important areas of concern, and the potential opportunities for the NHS, as the Brexit negotiations kick off.
From our privileged position in Brussels, with close proximity to the decision makers involved in the negotiations, we’ll be providing helpful, factual analysis to support the NHS during this time of uncertainty and prepare you for the changes ahead.
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Elisabetta Zanon is director of the NHS European Office, part of the NHS Confederation. Follow the organisation on Twitter @NHSConfed_EU