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Brexit health and social care battle continues

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Calls for an independent review on the impact of Brexit on health and social care were heard at Westminster this week

A campaign calling for an independent review of the impact of Brexit on health and social care is set to continue.

The Assess and Address campaign was created in response to concerns raised by those in the third sector over the implications that Brexit will have for health and social care.

Organisations fear that potential changes in rules, as a result of Brexit, related to the EU workforce, medicines research and funding could affect the provision of support and services to disabled people, people living with long term conditions, children and young people and unpaid carers.

A debate was held in the Houses of Parliament this week, where Members of Parliament heard in detail many of the worries held by the more than 100 organisations who have backed the campaign - including the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and Camphill Scotland.

Led by Brendan O’Hara MP, SNP member for Argyll and Bute, the debate heard that not a single one of the organisations who have backed the campaign feel that Brexit will be good for the health of the people in Britain.

O’Hara said: “Without exception, every one of the 102 organisations that support the campaign have highlighted the enormous damage that Brexit, particularly the end of freedom of movement would do to their ability to deliver in the health and social care sector.

“With every passing day, a disastrous no-deal situation looms even heavier on the Brexit horizon and we have no answers on the impact to the health and social care sectors. There will be consequences on the sector by the actions of the UK Prime Minister for failing to heed the serious warning of so many organisations. We owe it to the wider public to press ahead with this campaign.”

Anna Fowlie, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said the campaign for an independent evaluation will go on.

She said: “The fears that many within the health and social care sector have over Brexit are widespread, and despite the government stating contingency plans are in place this will to do little to reassure the 102 organisations who have backed the campaign.

“We will continue to press for an independent review of the effect Brexit will have on health and social care. From increased costs for cancer patients to fears over drug shortages, it is vital that all of the concerns brought forward by the campaign are independently assessed and addressed.”

During the debate, Minister for Health Stephen Hammond said the government has contingency plans in place to ensure any challenges presented by Brexit are met.

He said: “There is no doubt that many areas of the health and care system will be directly affected by EU exit. We do not have time to address those today. However, it is important that the country knows that the Government are committed to ensuring that, whether we leave with or without a deal, we have in place the contingency plans needed to meet those challenges.”

Neil Henery, director of Camphill Scotland, said it is disappointing that no independent evaluation will seemingly be brought forward by the government.

He said: “We are already seeing a significant drop in applications from European volunteers as a result of Brexit uncertainty. This seems like a terrible missed opportunity to start making the situation better.

“We are grateful to Brendan O’Hara MP for his continuing support and confirm we remain committed to work with him and our partners to bring this work to fruition.”

Ian Welsh, chief executive of the ALLIANCE, said: “People with long term conditions and unpaid carers have told us their fears about the future of health and social care after any form of Brexit, with some planning for the risk that a no deal Brexit poses. We continue to support the Assess and Address campaign with the aim to ensure an independent evaluation and mitigation of our members concerns.”

The debate was held on the back of Private Member’s Bill that O’Hara has tabled, calling for the independent evaluation.

So far, 102 organisations from across the UK have backed the calls for an independent assessment. The bill has also gained cross-party support from the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Greens and Plaid Cymru.

The European Union Withdrawal (Evaluation of Effects on Health and Social Care Sectors) Bill was introduced to the chamber at the end of last year, and is due to have its Second Reading on 5 April.

Strength of feeling is clear

The Assess and Address campaign has been backed by organisations from across the UK.

Concerns put forward range from an exacerbation of recruitment issues within health and social care, to detrimental impacts on medical research.

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said that there are many worries created by Brexit.

“The social care sector in Scotland, like the rest of the country, is desperate for some sort of resolution to the current crisis,” he said. “Over 100,000 Scots access critical care services and these are at real risk from a non-deal situation. From issues of workforce stability, access to
medicines, access to fresh food and the need for medical consumables - we have a real anxiety over whether we will be able to care for some of Scotland’s vulnerable citizens. We need resolution soon and we need our political leaders in Westminster to listen to our concerns rather than their own sound bites.”

Mark Hazelwood, chief executive of Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, said: “In terms of what is best for the care of people approaching the end of their lives it would be better to avoid Brexit. Our NHS and social care system is already “running on red” and we are extremely
concerned about the negative impact of Brexit. In all likelihood Brexit will significantly damage the care which people receive."

Another major concern raised has been over accessibility to medicines, with a high percentage of Britain’s drug supply coming from the EU.

“This independent evaluation is vital to understand the impact on the health and social care sector of Brexit,” said Matt Barclay, director of operations at Community Pharmacy Scotland.

“Obviously for community pharmacy teams the focus will be to do their utmost to maintain everyday medicine supply to the public in conjunction with other partners in the supply chain.”

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said the unknowns of Brexit present a health risk to people in Scotland.

She said: “So much energy at Westminster and Holyrood is tied up in Brexit and its possible implications, yet there are still vast unknowns. In the case of corporations with health-harming products like tobacco these unknowns could represent catastrophic risks for people. Public health
measures in general and tobacco reduction measures in particular are legitimate in their own terms, whether or not they affect the financial returns of industry.

"Lives now and in future depend on our recognising that people matter as much as profits, and taking as much care to scrutinise the public health impacts of Brexit as the impacts on business.”



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