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Leaving the EU: Health and Social Care

Volume 631: debated on Tuesday 14 November 2017

7. What recent assessment his Department has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the health and social care sector. (901813)

20. What recent assessment his Department has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the health and social care sector. (901826)

We are fully engaged with the highest level of Government work on Brexit. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is a member of the Cabinet Committee on Brexit, and he is engaged on all areas where Brexit may impact the health and social care sector. We are actively considering the Brexit implications for the UK on workforce, medicine and equipment regulation, reciprocal healthcare, life sciences, public health, research, trade and data.[Official Report, 21 November 2017, Vol. 631, c. 5MC .]

Is the Minister aware of the latest figures released this month by the Nursing & Midwifery Council? The figures confirm a clear trend: an 11% increase in the number of UK-trained nurses and midwives leaving the register, alongside an 89% drop in those coming to work in the UK from Europe. Does the Minister agree with the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing that

“These dramatic figures should set alarm bells ringing in Whitehall and every UK health department”?

It is the case that we have been reliant for much of the increase in clinicians in this country on doctors and nurses coming from the EU, so a reduction in that increase is something we are watching carefully. I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that the last figures we have show that, as of the end of June, there were 3,193 more clinicians working in the NHS in England than there were in June 2016.[Official Report, 21 November 2017, Vol. 631, c. 6MC.]

Brexit may well result in a loss of both rights and funding for people with disabilities, so when will this Government release their full impact assessment of the medical and social care sector?

The hon. Gentleman is looking for answers about social care. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), who has responsibility for social care, has made it clear that a paper will be published in due course. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will just have to be a bit more patient.

Earlier, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a welcome statement about the contribution of EU citizens to the health and social care sector. Will the Minister kindly advise us on what is being done at a trust level to support overseas workers, both from the EU and elsewhere, to ensure that they feel welcome and are encouraged to stay here as long as possible?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the NHS, from the centre through to every organisation for which EU citizens are working, that these people are welcome here. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union yesterday made it very clear that we are looking to have a simple, straightforward and cheap means for those who are here at the point of departure to be able to register to stay here. We want to encourage all those who are working for our NHS, wherever they come from, to continue doing so.

During his visit to the hospital in April, the Minister will have seen that Kettering General has a long and proud record of recruiting medical staff from outside the EU, and in numbers. Is it not the case that the NHS has always recruited from outside the EU and will continue to do so after Brexit?

My hon. Friend is right to say that there has been a long-standing tradition of this country welcoming professionals from outside, through various waves of migration that go back several decades. It is important to point out to him that the Secretary of State announced a year ago a 25% increase in the number of doctors in training in this country and earlier this autumn a 25% increase in the number of nurses to be trained in this country, so that we become less reliant on overseas clinicians at a time of a shortage of some 2 million worldwide.

Being a member of the European Medicines Agency has allowed UK patients early access to new drugs, and it also plays a crucial role in quality control and safety monitoring, so what solution has the Department come up with to ensure not only timely access to new drugs after Brexit, but that any complications are spotted early?

As I indicated in response to the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens), finding an appropriate relationship with the EMA post-Brexit is one of the core strands of work the Department is doing. As the hon. Lady will be aware, next Monday the other EU nations will vote to decide which country will host the new EMA. It is our intent, as we have made clear to the EU negotiators, to seek mutual recognition.

With the World Trade Organisation not having updated its drug list since 2010, all new drugs developed in the past seven years could incur tariffs. What contingency plans have been made to avoid shortages and increased costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

As the hon. Lady will be aware, we are looking for a relationship with the EU to ensure that we have tariff-free access to the single market, including for drugs and medicines, because the life sciences industry is such a critical element of our economy. Contingency plans are being put in place for a no deal. She will have to wait, as will the rest of us, to see whether or not that eventuality happens. Of course we do not want it to occur—it is not our intent.