RCP president Professor Dame Jane Dacre takes a look at the government's new Brexit white paper, explains what it tells us and asks what we still need to know.
Yesterday the government released their promised Brexit white paper. It follows the cabinet away day at Chequers last week where the cabinet came together to agree their collective position for the next stages of Brexit negotiations.
Over the past 2 years the RCP has laid out the key policy challenges of Brexit across workforce, collaboration, research, air quality and reciprocal healthcare arrangements. It’s clear that on some issues we’ve been heard, the recent recognition by government ministers of the importance of continued research funding and collaboration post-Brexit being one example.
However, as with most things Brexit-related, the detail is key and unknown.
With less than a year to go until we leave the EU, followed by a short transition period there are still many unanswered questions.
As health professionals, what we need more than anything is certainty. With less than a year to go until we leave the EU, followed by a short transition period, there are still many unanswered questions. Our focus continues to be on the NHS’s ability to meet patient need and support one another through what could be a considerable period of change.
Our challenge to government is for them to set out clearly and quickly how the NHS will continue to attract highly qualified staff from across the EU after Brexit.
For health, the white paper helps clarify the government’s direction of travel, but it’s yet to get to grips with some key policy challenges. The most worrying of which is workforce; it’s clear that in the short to medium term the only way to reduce pressure on the workforce is through immigration. The UK has to position itself as a destination of choice for doctors. EU doctors are vital to the NHS; we simply cannot meet patient need without them.
Our challenge to government is for them to set out clearly and quickly how the NHS will continue to attract highly qualified staff from across the EU after Brexit. They must also set out to create a welcoming environment that avoids unnecessary bureaucracy and cost.
We’ll be watching carefully how the EU responds. This is a negotiation and nothing in the white paper is a certainty. The government must place patient safety at the heart of Brexit negotiations. The timeline ahead is tight with the EU's targeted completion date for article 50 negotiations less than 3 months away at the end of September, for a deal ‘in principle’ to be discussed at the October meeting of the European Council.
Professor Dame Jane Dacre
Follow the president of the RCP on Twitter: @DacreJane