No-deal Brexit: how the NHS in Central Lancashire is preparing

Local areas like Preston, Chorley and South Ribble have to follow national guidelines in making preparations for a no-deal Brexit
Local areas like Preston, Chorley and South Ribble have to follow national guidelines in making preparations for a no-deal Brexit
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NHS organisations in Central Lancashire will hold conference calls every 24 hours in the days leading up to a possible no-deal Brexit at the end of next month.

The so-called “sitrep” – or situation report – updates are part of the plans to mitigate the potential impact of a no-deal scenario on the health service in the region.

The calls will eventually be incorporated into the daily NHS briefings which take place as a matter of course during the winter months to deal with seasonal pressures.

But the Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that the virtual gatherings have been brought forward this year because of the looming Brexit deadline – and are likely to begin on or around October 26.

Those involved will be nominated individuals from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals – which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley hospitals – the GP-led Greater Preston and Chorley and South Ribble clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), mental health provider Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and a social care representative from Lancashire County Council.

A meeting of the Chorley and South Ribble CCG heard that the management of medicine supplies was one of the main areas of focus for national Brexit planners at the Department of Health – and is the area of the NHS which the government feels that there is “most protection around”.

“I’ll be monitoring things like availability to test whether that’s the case,” said Matt Gaunt, chief finance officer and Brexit lead for Central Lancashire’s two CCGs.

The government has advised individuals – and warned NHS organisations – not to stockpile medication ahead of Brexit.

Chorley CCG GP director Dr John Cairns said that stockpiling by patients should not be possible – because they would be unable to order medicines earlier than would normally be the case. The committee’s nurse representative, Tricia Hamilton, agreed that stockpiling would be “exactly what we don’t want, [but] undoubtedly, people will be panicking”.

A local communications plan to provide information and advice to Central Lancashire residents is in the final stages of being drawn up.

Government advice to manufacturers of medicines and medical device is for them to build up a six-week supply of stock – over and above the volumes which they would usually hold – and to secure alternative freight routes away from the Channel crossings which are expected to be the most severely disrupted in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Chorley CCG members were told that any impact of a no-deal Brexit on the NHS workforce is unlikely to be felt immediately after the expected departure date of 31st October – and that the implications for the main hospital provider in the area, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, were “quite low” in any case.

Representatives of NHS organisations from across Lancashire recently took part in a one-day “scenario planning” session with Professor Keith Willett, the man in charge of Brexit planning at NHS England.

“Our level of preparedness is good now – as it was when we were due to leave on 29th March 29,” Matt Gaunt said.

“The difference now is that we are going into the winter period rather than exiting it. so there are greater concerns around resilience.

“Despite everything that’s going on in the news, government policy is unchanged – the UK is going to exit the EU on October 31. Until and unless such policy change takes place, we are planning on that basis,” he added.