EU Exit: Questions and Answers

Q: What does EU exit mean?
A: Following the public vote held in 2016, the UK is currently due to leave the European Union (EU) at 23:00 GMT on 31 October 2019. If the UK leaves the customs union and single market, then the EU will start carrying out checks on British goods. This could potentially lead to delays at ports, such as Dover, Tilbury, Felixstowe, Harwich and others, disrupting supplies of medicines, food and fuel.

Q: Why does the Trust need an EU exit plan?
A. The Trust’s Emergency Planning function, led by the Resilience Team, plans for circumstances such as this. We are engaging with our partner agencies through Local Resilience Forums and in other meetings to evaluate and manage any potential impact on our services and wider communities.

Q: What is EEAST doing about an EU exit?
A: The NHS is well-prepared for EU Exit. EEAST has an EU Exit team, representing all our directorates and led by Director of Finance and Commissioning Kevin Smith. We are engaged with NHSE’s national lead teams for EU Exit and follow their guidance.

Q: What is the NHS as a whole doing about an EU exit?
A: The UK Government Department of Health and Social Care has produced detailed guidance on what providers and commissioners of healthcare services can do to manage the risks of a no-deal Brexit. The EEAST guidance to staff is in line with this. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-healthcare-providers-can-prepare-for-brexit#supply-of-medicines-vaccines-medical-devices-and-clinical-consumables

Q: Will we run out of medical devices and clinical consumables?
A: It is extremely unlikely that the UK or the Trust will run out of medicines. There is potential for longer lead times for replenishment of stock for some types of items, including clinical consumables. There are plans in place to address these issues, including freight uplifts and an express channel for receiving goods into the UK. These will just require adjustment to our supply chains and individuals should not be impacted. Patients requiring further reassurance could refer to the NHS website https://www.england.nhs.uk/eu-exit/medicines/medicines-faq/ 

Q: What about non-clinical consumable goods and services?
A: The issues are the same for non-clinical goods and the Trust has sought assurances from its current suppliers that they are able to continue delivering to us after any EU Exit arrangement.

Q: What should I tell patients?
A: We can’t predict the outcome of an EU Exit, but we are well prepared.  You should reassure patients that we have plans in place to continue delivering our normal service to them. They should not worry: the trust has had assurance on all aspects of support and delivery to ensure its plans are effective.  Patients should be encouraged to continue as normal, and not stockpile medicines or other medical consumables. If they feel they need to, encourage them to discuss it with their GP.

Q: As a non-UK national could an EU exit affect my employment?
A: To avoid any potential problems, you should consider applying under the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible. https://www.gov.uk/staying-uk-eu-citizen. If you have any specific questions, please contact Tricia Orr in Human Resources tricia.orr@eastambnhs.uk

Q: What if I have a patient who is a European national?
A: In the event of an EU Exit, patients will be required to have insurance (as other foreign nationals already are) to cover any healthcare they need. However, you should reassure patients that emergency treatment – including ambulance transport – is free at the point of care.

Q: How will an EU exit affect our winter flu plans?
A: Delivery of the flu vaccines for this year have been brought forward and there is no expectation that supplies will be adversely affected.  Most vaccines are procured locally.

Q: Could an EU exit affect blood or organ donation?
A: Supplies are nearly all UK-based, so no changes are anticipated. Blood donors should continue donating as normal.

Q: What happens if I receive a Freedom of Information (FOI) request about an EU exit?
A: FOI requests about EU Exit will be dealt with in exactly the same way as any other FOI request, and should be mailed to foi@eastamb.nhs.uk.  

Q: What if I’m strongly pro or anti-EU exit?
A: We understand that a potential EU Exit arouses strong sentiments on all sides. However, the Trust – as a public body – remains strictly neutral.  Our primary concern is to reassure patients and the public that we have planned thoroughly for any outcome to EU exit discussions.

Q: What if I have any other work-related queries about an EU exit?
A: Please raise any queries with your line manager. We will be updating managers as more specific information about a potential EU exit becomes available.

Published 17th October 2019

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