The triggering of article 50 starts a period of uncertainty in our NHS. The decision is momentous, but after seven years of neglect from successive Tory governments the prime minister and health secretary must finally give the NHS and patients the certainty needed through the Brexit process.

So far the complacency in government is astounding. Last week, Jeremy Hunt published the department of health’s “mandate to NHS England” to set “the government’s objectives and any requirements for NHS England”. Amazingly the 24 page document made no mention of Brexit whatsoever.

And during the prime minister’s statement yesterday confirming the triggering of article 50, she failed to mention the NHS even once. Neglecting our health and social care system during the most significant period of political and economic uncertainty in decades is completely unacceptable.

The prime minister has already turned her back on the clear promise of £350 million a week for our NHS, but perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the NHS isn’t taken seriously as a Brexit priority for the government. Indeed, the health secretary isn’t even a member of the relevant cabinet committees managing the exit strategy.

Later this week health bosses will publish the updated five year forward view. NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, must ensure it includes the NHS’s plan for Brexit and not duck its responsibility to staff and patients.

After all, Britain’s health and social care system is dependent for its success on tens of thousands of European staff. Many of them have settled and built lives here while caring for our sick and elderly: safeguarding their futures should be an absolute priority in the Brexit negotiations.

So our first test of the government plans will be whether they deliver a right of remain for the 140,000 European Union nationals working in the NHS and social care system.

Secondly, on funding we know that the EU’s horizon 2020 scheme is due to invest £7.5 billion in health research across the EU over the next five years, and Britain will be by far the largest recipient of those funds. This long-term funding is crucial for our medical institutions and universities planning major research projects. So we need to know whether access to these funding streams will continue after Brexit, and if not, how does the government propose to make up the shortfall?

Our third test is on reciprocal healthcare arrangements. It is a key principle that British citizens can obtain free healthcare elsewhere in Europe, just as they would here at home from the NHS. Therefore, we want a guarantee that British citizens travelling and living abroad in Europe will continue to receive healthcare.

Finally, our fourth test is on EU healthcare collaboration. Effective joint working with our European partners has been vital for the NHS over recent years on everything from infectious disease control and the licensing, sale and regulation of medicines. The government must clarify whether the UK will continue to participate in the centralised marketing authorisation procedure for medicines governed by the European Medicines Agency. And how will Brexit will affect the UK pharmaceutical industry when exporting medicines to other member states in future?

These are of course difficult and complex questions to answer, but they are all of absolute importance to the future of our health service and of our medical research sectors.

The NHS is already in crisis over funding and staffing. But without a proper plan Brexit has the potential to tip those crises into unprecedented disasters. Patients and NHS staff should not be bargaining chips, and, at the very least, the public deserves clarify and certainty from the government.

First published on Labour List

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10 Comments

  1. jameskennedy79 says:

    The problem with the NHS is that the system itself is not working. If there was PHSO/Ombudsman reform – real reform – it would save a lot of money.

    At the moment the NHS admin and complaints system all need work.

    My complaint against a hospital has been going on for nearly 3 years, and the PHSO has wasted so much time and money on ‘experts’ and investigatory processes that are designed to make complaints fail (i.e. narrowing the scope for investigation, not looking at records, ‘losing’ files, implementing data systems and customer care(less) teams that take 3 months to confirm which expert they used in my case and I still can’t find out who he is or if he is even based in this country).

    Ombudsman reform should be an urgent priority especially as the last ombudsman and her staff has had enough negative media coverage to justify more than a couple of meetings with PACAC where the same old excuses are trundled out.

    1. dms91 says:

      Thanks James ,
      My complaint has been with Ombudsman since 2009 – I agree what a waste of time and public money! I could rewrite War and Peace with PHSO shenanigans but I’ll spare you Maybe latest chaos will set the scene? My SARs show “over 50 case workers accessed my file” WHY? Still waiting for a response from Customer (don’t) Care Team (only 6 months now!)

  2. As an ex-nurse I still believe that our NHS should be brought back from the abyss. I believe in our nurses, doctors and ancillary staff, and I believe tha underfunding and PFI’s have played a big part in its current state. I attended a ‘sister protest’ to save our NHS in Truro on 4th March and was shocked to realise that people didn’t know why these marches were taking place in London and throughout the country.

    The culture in our NHS has also changed considerably since I began nursing in 1974. Back then we still, only just, had Matrons. Since then we have had more and more administration at higher levels. We now have CEO’s who don’t seem to stay in one place very long and whose job is to give an illusion that all is well, these CEO’s very often portray, through the media, that they are coping whilst Junior Doctors and nurses give a different picture.

    The Health and welfare Act of 2012 didn’t help things either, transferring the onus back onto the Hospitals and care providers and removing Parliament/Government from being ‘in charge’ and in turn providing a perfect platform in which to privatise this service even more.

    There also seems to be an lot of NHS money set aside to fight the inevitable increase of maladministration, the inevitability of serious incidents increasing as staff shortages rise, low moral deepens and bad publicity increases on our news coverage. These incidents become more serious as hierarchy within the Trusts pay out vast sums of money to ‘cover up’ failings rather than tackle the problems fairly with the patient being put at the heart of investigations.

    I have had my own complaint with the Trusts concerned since 2011, and it is still ongoing. There have been two local investigations, and two PHSO investigations, involving two trusts. To say there were ‘errors’ would be an understatement and the level of cover up throughout the whole process just gets worse as each lie is uncovered. Think of all the money being spent to prove me wrong. The PHSO is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and has been the worst experience of all. My husband is left brain damaged and I find that easier to accept than the actions of our corrupt PHSO. They did not help, they hindered. The complaint handling system is rigged. The only people who get their cases brought to justice are those ‘never incidents’ where the wrong limb was amputated, with a few other complaints getting a fair investigation, and I mean a few.

    I belong to a pressure group headed by a wonderful lady, Della Reynolds. Without the group I would not have coped, and although our health service failed me and others I don’t want heads to roll, I want the truth and then justice, as do we all. I want our health service back to where it was when I was nursing, if things went wrong people were held to account, usually the nursing sister held accountability for their staff, harsh, but it was a first line of defence and hopefully we will one day get back to a system that actually worked.

    1. dms91 says:

      Thanks Treeze…….. its so hard seeking accountability when you are ill caring or grieving. We need a system which values and listens. “To err is human but to cover up in unacceptable and failure to learn lessons is unforgivable “- Says ex NHS CMO Sir Liam Donaldson Action speaks louder than words!! Your take on our corrupt PHSO is SPOT ON!

    2. dms91 says:

      How true!!There also seems to be an lot of NHS money set aside to fight the inevitable increase of maladministration, the inevitability of serious incidents increasing as staff shortages rise, low moral deepens and bad publicity increases on our news coverage. These incidents become more serious as hierarchy within the Trusts pay out vast sums of money to ‘cover up’ failings rather than tackle the problems fairly with the patient being put at the heart of investigations.

    3. EJ says:

      PHSO is quite simply corrupt by design. Having provided cast iron proof of a health Trust’s lies and cover-up of negligence and diagnostic failure, PHSO chose to automatically side with the Trust and as James infers, use stage-managing the basis of the complaint to deliberately avoid looking at the evidence and facts. The vast sums of public money wasted on sham investigations by a body which condones the NHS failing the patients who pay for it, is nothing short of shocking. The Government simply does not care, it does not care because it is set up this way. The new PSO has exactly the same remit and we are not fooled. The Ombudsman and staff are apparently totally above the law. People will not stand for this, we will continue the fight. Until the NHS is called to account by those who can, the travesty will continue. Don’t get me started on social care either. Corruption through and through and children’s social care is a combination of state parenting ala George Orwell’s 1984 and a gateway to child-trafficking and paedophilia. We need honest people in government, not liars and criminals.

  3. dms91 says:

    It is vital that we dont lose sight of the NHS……..there is too much happening in NHS like political reform of the PHSO to PSO, too much post Brexit will be under the radar……..eg NHS England today announced waiting times for treatments will increase (where is the opposition on this BTW What exactly does Jeremy Hunt do?)

  4. dms91 says:

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/news/11-06-28-clreoprt-substantive-/ Proof that if the Dept of Health actually implemented Health Select Committee recommendations re PHSO in 2011 maybe reform wouldnt be needed. Incidentally, if Deputy PHSO Mick Martin was not named in the whistleblowers Report re Derby NHS then there would have been no reason for PHSO to cover up for him. Woiuld reform have changed this? dunno, you decide!

  5. dms91 says:

    Jon Ashworth- Could we please meet with you, there is much to discuss

  6. rotzeichen says:

    Having read the above comments I just wonder what planet I am living on.

    The NHS has been abolished by the act, it is not a functioning NHS it’s a private health service, It has been deliberately underfunded in order to cripple it and the people above never once complain about what the Tories have done to it.

    Are people really that blind to what is happening or are they complicit with it?

    The real problem in this country is that those working in the NHS have tolerated what these Tories have been doing, naively believing that they wouldn’t go as far as they have, they should have been organising against it to protect the NHS, at least then the public at large would be aware and know who to vote for.

    These people are laughing at you:

    George Osborne‏
    Verified account
     @George_Osborne Mar 30

    More
    George Osborne Retweeted Carole Walker
    Happy memories of many party conferences trying to convince you various fiascos were all triumphs, and you were having none of it! Good luck

    This tweet was to a BBC reporter Carole Walker.

    I have produced this document before but here it is again:

    Margaret Thatcher’s secret 1982 cabinet papers “the longer term options”:

    Which spell out in detail how the Tories will dismantle the state and privatise all our public services.

    https://skwalker1964.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/cab-129-215-6.pdf

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