EU Exit - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Department of Health doing to prepare for Brexit?

The Department is engaged in extensive contingency planning on a range of possibilities, including a no deal Brexit.

The safety of people receiving health and social care service is our top priority.

We are working with the UK Government (UKG), and civil service and public sector colleagues in Northern Ireland to ensure services are protected, as much as possible, from any disruption.

At this stage, we do not anticipate any immediate impact on day-to-day provision of all health and social care services as these will continue to work as normal. This includes A&E care, social care, GP and dentist services. Patients do not need to do anything new or different.

We appreciate this is an uncertain time for all citizens and would re-iterate that detailed contingency planning continues to be a matter of high priority for the Department.

What guarantees can DoH give patients on supply of medicines and medical products to N Ireland post Brexit?

The DoH is working closely with the UKG to ensure that patients in Northern Ireland will continue to have access to their medicines and other medical supplies following the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March 2019, including in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in London is responsible for supply of medicines and medical devices across the UK. All supply arrangements take into account the volumes required in Northern Ireland and transportation to and within the UK.

A comprehensive assessment of medicines and other medical supplies has been completed and additional stock is being held over and above normal levels for the whole of the UK.  To ensure deliveries continue as normal additional shipping capacity and alternative routes from the EU to UK have also been arranged and medicines and other medical products will be classified as prioritised goods. 

Will there be shortages as a result of Brexit?

Supply problems with medicines and other medicines supplies are not uncommon within the health service here and across the UK and can arise for various reasons. The production of medicines is complex and highly regulated, and materials and processes must meet rigorous safety and quality standards.

There are tried and tested arrangements in place for dealing with shortages to ensure that patients continue to get the medicines and medical supplies they need. There is no hard evidence to date to suggest current issues are increasing as a result of EU Exit.

Is DoH satisfied that there is sufficient container ship capacity on the Irish Sea for the transport of medical supplies if required?

The Department has been working with the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) locally and the Department for Transport (DfT) in London to consider transportation capacity and flows of goods into NI. The analysis and projections for capacity and flows post EU Exit are based on current trends, which indicate that sufficient goods are able to be transported to their destination effectively at present and this is expected to continue post EU Exit. 

Why does NI not have its own stockpile of medicines?

UK regions do not hold individual stockpiles.  Instead Northern Ireland is part of a UK-wide wholesaler/supplier network which will have access to national stockpiling arrangements developed to maintain supplies of medicines to patients in all UK regions following EU exit. 

What assurances has DoH received on cross-border transport issues post Brexit for staff travel and emergency vehicle journeys?

In relation to staff travel, we are advised that for UK and Irish citizens, it is the intention of both Governments that existing Common Travel Area arrangements will apply.  This is also the case for existing protocols for emergency vehicle journeys.

Government advice on driving after Brexit is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prepare-to-drive-in-the-eu-after-brexit .

This advises that if you hold a UK driving licence you should not need an International Driving Permit to drive in Ireland from 29 March 2019.  In the event of a "no deal" Brexit, motorists travelling across the Border will need a green card – further details at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/driving-other-countries-ni-licence

How many EU nationals from the continent work in HSC and live in NI?

Given the EU’s freedom of movement of people principle, the EU nationality of staff was not recorded.  The indications are that the number of non-UK or Irish EU citizens working in the HSC system here is small; however, these staff members continue to make an important contribution.

* What efforts has DoH made to communicate with these EU nationals?

Significant efforts were made to communicate with staff to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme pilot in December 2018, which was targeted at the health and social care sector across the UK.  Further, HSC employers paid the fees of staff who applied in the pilot (fees are not required for the scheme itself, following a recent Government decision). Communication efforts will continue as the scheme is rolled out.

How many HSC employees live in the Irish Republic and cross the border to work?

HSC employers estimate that the figure is around 750, with half of these in nursing and midwifery.  The NI Social Care Council estimates that there are around 400 individuals in the independent social care sector.

What contacts has the Department of Health had with the Republic’s Government on ensuring continuity of cross border health care arrangements post Brexit?

The Department is working with DHSC in London and the Department of Health in Dublin to ensure that the reciprocal healthcare rights established under the Common Travel Area are maintained following EU Exit.  Arrangements for the provision of specific cross border healthcare services made between the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and the Department of Health in Dublin (such as the Paediatric Congenital Heart Service or the North West Cancer Centre) should not be affected by EU Exit as they are not based on EU legislation.

What representations has DoH made with London and Dublin on mutual recognition of professional qualifications between the UK and EU states post Brexit?

DoH provided significant input to two pieces of subordinate legislation which provide a statutory basis for recognition of EU health and social care qualifications in the UK, post-Brexit.  Any official engagement with the Irish government is a matter for the UKG.

How much additional funding has DoH sought and received for Brexit preparations?

DoH has received £150k of additional funding to support planning for Brexit and key mitigations in 2018/19 and will receive £250k in 2019/20. The Department continues to liaise with The Executive Office and the Department of Finance in relation to potential funding requirements.

Will patients already booked to receive treatment in EU states under the Directive on cross border healthcare still be reimbursed post Brexit?

Yes

If the UK and EU confirm a withdrawal agreement on EU Exit it is expected that the Cross Border Healthcare Directive will continue to apply during the transition period until 31 December 2020 and patients booked before EU Exit Day will be reimbursed.  Decisions as to what will happen at the end of transition have not yet been made. 

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