Association and RCoA joint guidance on the impact of no-deal Brexit | Association of Anaesthetists
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Association and RCoA joint guidance on the impact of no-deal Brexit


Royal College of Anaesthetists and Association of Anaesthetists joint guidance on the impact of a no-deal Brexit

27 September 2019

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has issued a statement warning of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit to patient safety and the healthcare sector in the UK.

Together, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Association of Anaesthetists would like to make their members aware of existing guidance that already provides clarity on safe practice for individual clinicians, managers and organisations.

We advise that these principles should apply in the event of a no-deal Brexit:

  • the anaesthetic team – the primary focus of every member of the anaesthetic team should be the safety of patients under their care. If any member of the anaesthetic team is concerned that safe care may not be delivered because of issues relating to drugs, equipment, facilities or staffing, they are duty bound to address these issues before initiating care (except in the presence of life-threatening emergencies), and this may include a decision to postpone surgery
  • the anaesthesia technique – when offering patients alternative techniques because of drug, equipment or staffing constraints, anaesthetists should at all times act in the best interests of the patient and be satisfied that it is better to proceed in these circumstances than to delay surgery. The patient should be fully informed so that they have opportunity to give or withhold consent to any alternative plans, as they may prefer to delay surgery if this is appropriate
  • service provision – constrained resources may mean that service priorities need to be redefined. Rationing care in this situation will require clinicians, managers and commissioners to justify their decisions and be accountable. Any decisions should be communicated to patients in a transparent way.

Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is leading the response to Brexit across this sector. DHSC is also the key contact for the sector liaising with the Department for Exiting the EU and the Cabinet Office. NHS England and NHS Improvement are working closely with DHSC to optimise NHS preparation.

All guidance issued by DHSC on ‘Planning for a no-deal Brexit’ can be found here.

NHS England has also created a new set of FAQs for healthcare staff on the continuity of supply of medicines and medical products. Information for patients on how to get their medicines in case of a no-deal Brexit has been published by the NHS.

Welsh and Scottish governments have also developed guidance for their respective health and social care services. 

Other sources of useful information:

  • the Irish government's Brexit Contingency Action Plan
  • the NHS Confederation Brexit Bulletin is produced by the NHS Confederation European Office to collate the latest Brexit news for the health and care sector
  • the Brexit Health Alliance brings together the NHS, medical research, industry, patients and public health organisations. The Brexit Health Alliance aims to safeguard the interests of patients and the healthcare and research they rely on, during the Brexit negotiations
  • the Cavendish Coalition acts as a shared voice which influences and lobbies on post-EU referendum matters. It also provides those leading negotiations with expertise and knowledge on the issues affecting the health and social care workforce.

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