During Health Questions, Karin Smyth, who also sits on the Public Accounts Committee – which has undertaken a number of recent inquiries into the workings of the NHS – asked Ministers what steps they will be taking to assess and mitigate the risk to the Department of Health’s current year budget of Brexit’s likely ‘huge’ impact on staffing, procurement and medicines.
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In his response, Health Minister George Freeman MP claimed “nobody in the system needs to worry about any immediate changes”.
But Karin Smyth said: “Far from being reassuring, the Minister’s response indicated the government does not have even the lightest of grips on the major changes coming, and how they will be addressed.
“Anyone who has worked in any sort of business knows that when big changes loom there is a shift in outlook when forward planning is being considered. There is arguably no bigger change for the UK than its withdrawal from the EU.
“Being told the government is ‘putting together a plan’ simply won’t hold water with my Bristol South constituents who are worried about the way the NHS that we all rely on will be able to respond to the changes that lie ahead.
“Whether they voted to Leave or Remain, Bristol people value our NHS and they won’t accept the type of dithering over this most vital of public service that we’re seeing from the government.”
In his reply, George Freeman MP had added: “The Government are putting together a plan for handling the negotiations that now need to be taken forward, and for my own part I as a Minister in the Department have convened a workforce to look at the issues around medicines access. There are three things we need to do: first, to reassure people that this country has a very strong life science and healthcare research system and economy; secondly, to make sure that we negotiate our new relationship with the EU in a way that works; and thirdly, to take advantage of the regulatory freedoms that we now have to make sure that this country is the very best country in the world in which to develop those innovations.”