Preparing for the UK’s exit from the European Union

The UK is expected to leave the European Union on 31 October 2019. This page gives the latest information for patients about how you can access healthcare after this date.

Medicines and prescriptions

You don’t need to take any special action to keep getting your medicines and medical products after Brexit. The NHS, the Department of Health and Social Care and medical companies are prepared for Brexit. Plans are in place to help ensure you keep getting your medicines and medical products.

What you should do:

  • If you or someone you care for regularly take medication you should keep ordering your prescriptions in the usual way and take your medicines as normal.
  • If you are concerned about treatment, please speak to your pharmacist, GP or specialist.

There is information for patients on the NHS website

What we’re doing:

The plans developed by the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care cover all medicines and medical products. This includes:

  • all prescribed medicines
  • over the counter medicines (medicines you can buy without a prescription)
  • medical devices eg surgical instruments, gloves and gowns
  • nutritional products
  • bloods, blood and transplant products (there are some medicines that are derived from blood plasma such as immunoglobulin, albumin, and clotting factors)
  • vaccines

We’ve asked GPs and pharmacists to continue to prescribe medicines and medical products as usual and avoid issuing longer than normal prescriptions. 

Extra supplies already in the UK

Companies supplying the UK with medicines and medical products already have additional stocks in the UK in preparation for Brexit.  The Department of Health and Social Care has secured more warehouse space to keep the extra medicines in.

Transport to keep medical deliveries coming into the UK

The government now has contracts with transport services to keep the flow of medicines and medical products coming in to the UK.  This includes aeroplane courier services to get medicines into the UK within 24 hours if needed, as well as priority space on other routes such as ferries.

Medical devices and clinical consumables (MDCC)

It is important that patients only order their medical devices as normal and continue to use them as normal. If you are concerned, please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Non clinical consumables, goods and services

National and local measures are in place to help ensure that the non-clinical goods and services, including food for hospitals, that the NHS needs to function, continue to be available.

Research and clinical networks

The NHS has a long tradition of supporting cutting-edge research to ensure our patients have early to access the newest treatments available. The NHS and the government are working with organisations running clinical trials to help ensure that research continues as normal in the coming months. They have advised these organisations to consider their supply chains for clinical trials, and to ensure they have appropriate arrangements in place to assure the continuity of supplies for clinical trials and investigations

Vaccines

The government, NHS and Public Health England have been working closely together to ensure vaccines will continue to be available as needed after the UK leaves the EU.

Where vaccines need to be brought in from the EU they are covered by the government’s contingency plans, which means the products can be quickly imported at short notice if necessary. This will include air freight for products which have a short shelf life and cannot be stockpiled.

Blood and transplant

Blood and transplant products will continue to be available. The UK is largely self-sufficient for these products. However, where they need to be brought in from the EU, these products are covered by the government’s contingency plans, which means the products can be quickly imported should they be required. This will include air freight for products which have a short shelf life and cannot be stockpiled.

Blood donors should continue to donate blood as normal.

Workforce

Measures have been put in place to help the NHS to maintain staff levels following EU Exit. Under UK legislation, the qualifications of EU staff will continue to be recognised in the UK.

The EU Settlement Scheme is open to all EU nationals currently resident in the UK. Irish citizens are not required to apply to the scheme, although in some circumstances they may wish to. Non-Irish family members of Irish citizens will need to apply. The process to register is simple and free to all.

Data

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will still apply after the UK leaves the EU. NHS organisations are putting in place steps to ensure that any transfers of patient data are able to continue uninterrupted. If you would like more information on how your data is handled and processed by particular NHS organisations, you should contact their data protection team.

Reciprocal healthcare and cost recovery

This information will apply if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

UK nationals travelling to the EU

  • If you are a UK national travelling to the EEA or Switzerland, you should prepare for possible changes to how you access healthcare, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
  • If you have an EHIC, this will be valid until the exit day but may not be accepted after this, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
  • The latest information for UK nationals travelling to the EEA is available on the NHS website.
  • The government always advises UK citizens to take out comprehensive travel insurance when going overseas, to both EU and non-EU destinations. Make sure your insurance has the necessary healthcare cover to ensure you can get any treatment you might need, for example if you have any pre-existing conditions.

EEA and Swiss residents living/visiting/moving to UK

Living in the UK

  • Citizens from these countries living lawfully in the UK on or before exit day will still be eligible for free NHS care after the UK leaves the EU, as long as they remain ordinarily resident.
  • Their families will also be eligible for free NHS care, as long as they meet the ordinarily resident test, even if they arrive after the UK leaves the EU.

Moving to the UK after exit day

To be eligible for free NHS care, citizens who move to the UK after exit day must:

  • meet the ordinarily resident test
  • comply with relevant immigration requirements, once freedom of movement ends

Irish citizens will only need to meet the ordinarily resident test to be eligible for free NHS care.

Visiting or studying in the UK

  • Visitors from EEA and Switzerland will be chargeable unless either of the following applies:
  • a healthcare agreement is in place with the country of residence
  • an exemption within the charging regulations applies (for example if they are accessing an exempt service).

Visitors from the EEA countries and Switzerland whose visit to the UK starts before exit day will not be charged for treatment in England for as long as their temporary stay continues. For tourists, this will be until the end of their holiday. For students, this will be for the duration of their course, as long as they stay on it.

UK nationals living in the EU/EEA

  • If you have an S1 certificate, it may not be valid, depending on how the UK leaves the EU and on decisions by and arrangements with your host state.
  • The government encourages citizens to register for access to healthcare in the EU/EEA country they live in, as some residents may need to be a long-term resident or pay social security contributions to access free or discounted healthcare. Make sure you have all the right documentation and it is up to date.
  • People already living in the EU who have their healthcare funded by the UK, including pensioners and students, will have their healthcare costs covered for six months in the event of a no deal Brexit.
  • If you are living in the EU but the UK government currently pays for your healthcare, you may use NHS services in England without charge when visiting the UK.
  • More information for UK pensioners, students and workers living in the EU/EEA can be found on gov.uk

Helpful links

Other information related to healthcare and Brexit

If you are a healthcare professional, see NHS England’s guidance for healthcare professionals – https://www.england.nhs.uk/eu-exit/medicines/medicines-faq/