Report shows that getting NHS ready for no deal is an impossible task: Nuffield Trust response to NAO report

Mark Dayan responds to today's "Exiting the EU: supplying the health and social care sectors" report by the National Audit Office.

Press release

Published: 27/09/2019

Responding to the National Audit Office’s Exiting the EU: supplying the health and social care sectors report, Nuffield Trust Brexit Programme Lead Mark Dayan said:

“Today’s report lays bare the DHSC’s frantic work to prepare the health service for the disruption of a no-deal Brexit. But the gaps it shows underline that this may be an impossible task in the short time available.

“There is reassurance that stockpiling is proceeding rapidly, at least for medicines. 91% of products had been stockpiled before the last Brexit date, although 9% missing is still too high. But it is very troubling that suppliers have found new routes into the UK for only 25% of medicines. The strategy is dependent on medicines still getting in: otherwise the six-week stockpile will simply run out over the months of delays anticipated. We must remember that NHS trusts need services like laundry and food as well. There is little here to reassure us that they are ready for shortages or supplier failure.

“The report says starkly that DHSC has not been able to get assurances that social care services will be ready for a no-deal exit. With many care providers in a very weak condition after years of financial and staffing shortfalls, this is an urgent worry. The impact on vulnerable people could be severe.

“For the first time, we see it acknowledged that preparations are underway for the financial impact of a no-deal Brexit. It is good that the risks are being weighed up, but our work suggests extra costs in the medium term could reach £2.3 billion each year across the UK [2]. Extra costs on that scale would require pulling NHS funding back from the front line, or a rethink from the Treasury.”

Notes to editors

  1. This statement is in response to today's National Audit Office’s Exiting the EU: supplying the health and social care sectors report.
  2. The £2.3 billion referred to within the statement is the Nuffield Trust’s own calculation on the total extra costs for the NHS by the end of 2019/20 if there is a no-deal Brexit. A full breakdown can be found in Mark Dayan’s blog How much would NHS costs rise if there’s no Brexit deal?
  3. The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate