Despite Government guidance urging NHS Trusts not to release their Brexit planning, documents obtained by Best for Britain reveal the shocking Brexit fears harboured by local hospitals across the country.
The research, which comes from Freedom of Information requests sent to 150 NHS Foundation Trusts across England asking for internal Brexit planning documents and submissions to NHS England, the Department for Health and Social Care and the Department for Exiting the EU, is the most in-depth look into local hospital Brexit planning to date.
In total, 35 Trusts responded with details of their Brexit plans. A further 43 Trusts refused the request, with many citing government guidance instructing local hospitals not to reveal Brexit planning and escalate panic.
Key findings from the planning documents include:
- Most hospitals groups highlighted staffing shortages, damage to supply of medicine and uncertainty around future research projects as areas of particular concern.
- At least four of the Trusts who responded had placed Brexit as a strategic risk to the Trust’s ability to deliver its goals, with The Dudley Group giving a no-deal Brexit a risk rating of “catastrophic”.
- Most of the Trusts reported grave concerns around the supply of medicines, with The Dudley Group reporting critical shortages already growing since January and around 100 drugs at risk, the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital identifying 10% of the Trust’s suppliers as high or medium risk, and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys warning that supply disruption would potentially “result in in-patient units being under extreme pressure.”
- In an email chain about Midlands Partnership's Brexit plans, the Trust’s Director of Pharmacy, who is also the Managing Director of Shropshire Care Group, feared a return to the days of hospitals keeping a civil contingencies medicines stockpile.
- Trusts also highlighted the threat of a no-deal Brexit to their treatment of complex disorders and diseases: the Dudley Group said there was a threat to their ability to treat Parkinsons Disease as one of the key products used to diagnose the disease (DaTSCAN) would see delivery delays. Northern Lincolnshire and Goole said that “Brexit will mainly affect radiopharmaceuticals used for diagnostic imaging” as “access to suitable radioisotopes is fragile and could be adversely affected”
Commenting, Best for Britain supporter and Labour MP, Dr Paul Williams said:
"This is a damning indictment of the Government and its project to leave the EU, showing the extreme pressures facing Britain's hospitals if Brexit goes ahead.
"We shouldn't be in a situation where hospitals across the country are scared about staffing levels and potentially having to cut back services in order to stay afloat. These documents show that Brexit presents a real threat to patient care across the country.
"I strongly believe that our country is healthiest inside the EU, which is why I'm backing the public having the final say over Brexit."
Also commenting, Interim CEO of Best for Britain, Naomi Smith, said:
"It's no wonder the Government didn't want local hospitals releasing these Brexit planning documents. They're terrifying and highlight the scale of damage to our local communities that would be caused by a no-deal Brexit.
"No-deal may have hit the news less recently, but these documents show that the spectre of Brexit still looms large over our NHS.
"We cannot allow our local hospitals to collapse under the strain of this ideological project. That's why the public need to be given the final say on Brexit, with the option to stay and strengthen our treasured NHS."