Now that the UK has moved into negotiations with the EU, a new alliance has been formed to safeguard the interests of patients and the healthcare and research they rely on.
The inauguration of the Brexit Health Alliance was announced at the NHS Confederation’s conference in Liverpool on Wednesday 14 June. The Alliance brings together the NHS, medical research, industry, patients and public health organisations. It will be co-chaired by Sir Hugh Taylor, the former permanent secretary of the Department of Health, and Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation. Read the press release
The Alliance will seek to make sure that issues such as healthcare research, access to technologies and treatment of patients are given the prominence and attention they deserve in the Brexit negotiations, and will argue that it is in both Europe and the UK’s interests to maintain co-operation in research and in handling public health issues. It will also call on the UK government to make sure there is a commitment to medical research and providing alternative funding, and that UK citizens’ right to receive healthcare in EU countries is preserved.
Who are the Alliance’s founding members?
- Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
- Association of Medical Research Charities
- Association of British Healthcare Industries
- The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
- Association of UK University Hospitals
- Bio Industry Association
- Faculty of Public Health
- Medical Schools Council
- National Voices
- NHS Confederation (including Mental Health Network, NHS Clinical Commissioners, NHS Employers, NHS Partners Network)
- NHS Providers
- Northern Ireland Confederation
- Richmond Group of Charities
- Scottish NHS Chief Executive Group
- Welsh NHS Confederation
What will the Alliance focus on?
The Brexit Health Alliance will focus on the following five work streams:
- Supporting maximum levels of research and innovation collaboration
This work stream will focus on how clinical research could be impacted by leaving the EU and how we retain the UK’s leading role in international medical research. Our aim will be to ensure that patients are able to benefit from international research collaborations post-Brexit.
- Ensuring regulatory alignment for the benefit of patients and the public’s health
This work stream will explore the implications that leaving the EU regulatory system for health could have on patient outcomes in the UK, with the aim of minimising any negative impact. Our priority will be that UK patients continue to benefit from early access to the wide range of innovative health technologies available and that they do not miss out on the opportunity to access cutting edge treatments as a result of the UK leaving the EU.
- Preserving reciprocal healthcare arrangements
This work stream will look at the right to receive healthcare in another EU country, which is currently regulated by the EU. Leaving the EU may therefore have consequences for UK patients in terms of their ability to access cross-border healthcare. This could mean that, in the future, British citizens on holiday in Europe might no longer be able to use the European Health Insurance Card, which allows them to receive emergency or immediately necessary healthcare on the same terms as the residents of that country.
EU law also allows Britons who are abroad for a longer period of time – such as pensioners living abroad, or UK citizens who work in another EU country – to be entitled to receive healthcare in the country where they live on the same basis as the local population.
- Ensuring robust coordination mechanisms on public health and wellbeing
This work stream will look at potential implications of Brexit on public health, defined as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society”. It will focus on ensuring a high level of population and public health is maintained through some form of access to EU coordination mechanisms and networks, such as those of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and EU coordinated management of health threats, as well as a rights based approach to health and high standards of consumer protection.
There is a broad range of collaborative European initiatives in this area, as the EU has direct competence in public health and this is reflected both in EU policy and legislation.
- Securing a strong funding commitment to the health sector and the public’s health
With our health service facing an unprecedented financial challenge, this work stream will seek to promote solutions to minimise any potential additional pressures which may result from Brexit, as well as advocating for any loss of EU funds for the sector to be offset by alternative funding.
The UK is also the lead beneficiary of the collaborative research partnership between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry, and has received 28% of total Innovative Medicines Initiative funding from the EU Commission, the largest amount of any country. This totals €302.8 million. In the partnership, the UK has received high proportions of funding in respiratory diseases, vaccine development, infectious diseases, and diabetes.
The Brexit Health Alliance is a separate body from the Cavendish Coalition, which focuses on addressing the potential impacts of Brexit on the health and social care workforce.