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News Investigation

NHS trusts struggle to produce Brexit plans amid continuing uncertainty

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 20 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5346
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

EXCLUSIVE A lack of concrete guidance from the government is making it difficult for trusts to move beyond basic planning, Gareth Iacobucci finds

NHS trusts across the UK are finding it difficult to produce contingency plans for Brexit because of the continuing uncertainty about the country’s future relations with the European Union, an investigation by The BMJ has found.

Trusts have been unable to accurately forecast how crucial areas such as supply chains, medicines, and workforce will be affected after the 29 March exit deadline.

The investigation found that only 9% of trusts in England (15 of 161 that responded, out of a total of 231) have established a committee or body to oversee preparations for Brexit. Of the 21 health boards in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland that responded (of a total of 26), 14 have set up a committee.

The BMJ asked all trusts and health boards to disclose any current risk assessment relating to Brexit. Only a quarter of those that responded (47 of 182) were able to disclose this information, with several saying that they were still assessing the risk. Those assessments that have been done are largely thin on detail, and often trusts assessed similar risks differently.

The investigation shows that trusts are still having problems forging plans for Brexit, four months after the news website Politico reported data from 38 UK hospitals showing that most had not made any formal contingency planning for a “no deal” Brexit.1

Government action lacking

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, the body that represents NHS …

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