Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing

How will Brexit affect patient care and medical research?

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4380 (Published 16 November 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4380

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  1. Layla McCay, director of international relations
  1. NHS Confederation
  1. layla.mccay{at}nhsconfed.org

As part of a series of briefings as we near the end of the Brexit transition period, Layla McCay looks at the potential impact of leaving the EU on patient care and medical research

What impact will the end of the transition period have on patients’ ability to access care in other countries?

Currently, by prior arrangement, UK patients can travel to an EU country, and vice versa, to receive specialist care or have regular sessions of treatment such as dialysis or chemotherapy while abroad. These arrangements will not apply after 31 December 2020, and it’s not yet clear whether a replacement scheme will be put in place and, if it is, to whom it will apply.

If a replacement is not agreed during the current negotiations, existing agreements between healthcare commissioners and providers are likely to continue, albeit on a different contractual basis. Unless mitigation is put in place domestically by the relevant governments, however, people with pre-existing conditions who want to travel on either side of the EU-UK border and to arrange specialist care while abroad could find themselves “uninsurable.”

UK citizens who are already legally resident in an EU country, or vice versa, before the end of 2020 are covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and can continue to get healthcare in their country of residence as they do now, for the rest of their lives. Arrangements …

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