Can we learn anything from the medical sector about Brexit?

A very interesting article appeared in the Lancet on the 28th of September this year in which the authors examined the impact of a soft Brexit, hard Brexit and no Deal would have on the British medical system I would suggest that it is a good reference point for any firm which has yet to examine the impact of Brexit on their own business.

The conclusion of the report is “that each scenario poses substantial threats. The workforce of the NHS is heavily reliant on EU staff. Financing of health care for UK citizens in the EU and vice versa is threatened, as is access to some capital funds, while Brexit threatens overall economic performance. Access to pharmaceuticals, technology, blood, and organs for transplant is jeopardised. Information used for international comparisons is threatened, as is service delivery, especially in Northern Ireland. Governance concerns relate to public health, competition and trade law, and research.” As you delve deeper into the report the parallels with other sectors are self evident.

Another interesting aspect of the report is the framework used to evaluate the effects of Brexit on health and the NHS. The authors employ the WHO health system building blocks framework to assess the likely effects of the three scenarios examined. As you will see from their table below, the framework can be easily modified for commercial and non commercial organisations.


Key soundbites from the report include:

  • “Leaving the European Union is arguably the greatest peacetime challenge that the UK has ever faced”;
  • “The potential impact on healthcare will be substantial, affecting how medical products are licensed, the employment of EU staff in universities and the NHS, the rights to healthcare of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa, regulation of research, and much more;
  • “However, the British government has not addressed these crucial issues, while the civil service appears to be struggling to cope, especially within the Department of Health, which has experienced large-scale redundancies;
  • “We have no confidence that central government is yet in a position to address the consequences for health.”

It appears plausible to substitute words in the report such as healthcare, medical products, service delivery and so forth for equivalents in other industries to assess whether similar insights and conclusions might apply.

In our experience, significant number of mid-sized firms and multiple more small firms have yet to consider the impact of Brexit on their business.  Ten minutes spent by these firms reading this Lancet report and noting down in the margins possible parallels would be well worth the effort.

Dr. Ray NultyComment