Leaving Customs Union and Single Market will damage NHS warns Mayor
• As EU Leaders reject PM’s call for UK membership of European Medicines Agency after Brexit, new report warns of reduced access to new medicines and clinical trials
• 85 per cent of London doctors say Brexit will see NHS suffer
• Leaving Single Market and Customs Union will have negative impact on patients with diseases or long-term illnesses
Leaving the Customs Union and Single Market after the implementation period will have a negative impact on the NHS and patients with diseases or long-term illnesses, according to a new report from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Published with the report is a survey of London doctors, in which the majority of respondents believe that UK patients would have slower access to new medicines and be able to access fewer clinical trials after Brexit.
Some 85 per cent of doctors who responded believe that leaving the European Union will have a negative impact on the NHS.
The paper, published today, argues that Brexit risks new medicines and treatments taking much longer to come to the UK market – potentially damaging the NHS’S ability to treat patients.
The UK will become a much smaller market in comparison with the EU after Brexit, and the report highlights that pharmaceutical companies currently focus on getting approval for new medicines in big markets, like the USA and EU.
The report features the example of Australia, which is forced to wait up to 15 months longer than the EU and USA for pharmaceutical companies to apply for approval for breakthrough medicines, including treatments for cancer and heart disease.
It also highlights that leaving the Single Market and Customs Union risks closing off UK patients’ access to a large number of clinical trials conducted across the European Economic Area. In some cases, these trials may be the only option for those with an advanced or rare disease.
It argues that, with the UK outside shared Single Market regulations, the added complexity and cost could exclude UK patients, reducing their access to innovative treatments.
One of the most damaging consequences of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union is losing membership of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) - the framework which ensures that once approved, new medicines can be instantaneously marketed across the whole of the European Economic Area.
The Prime Minister indicated in her recent Mansion House speech that she wanted to keep this benefit after Brexit, but at the EU Council meeting on Friday (March 23) European leaders ruled this out because of the UK’s commitment to leavING the Single Market.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Nobody who voted for Brexit did so believing it would damage the NHS or patient care. Quite the reverse in fact, given the appallingly misleading promises of extra spending on the NHS made by the leave side in the referendum campaign.
“This report shows that membership of the Customs Union and Single Market ensures patients in Britain get quicker access to innovative treatments, and that the NHS can quickly access vital medicines and technologies from Europe without additional costs or lengthy delays.
“And you don’t have to take my word for it – doctors in London overwhelmingly agree.
“The Government’s chaotic approach to the Brexit negotiations is putting our NHS and British patients at risk – as well as our jobs and prosperity. Ministers must now abandon their pursuit of an extreme Hard Brexit and change path to keep Britain in both the Customs Union and Single Market.”
Membership of the EU Single Market and Customs Union also allows for frictionless trade and supply of medicines and medical technologies from the EU to the UK, which for medicines is estimated to total 37 million patient packs a year. Any customs delays or requirements to re-test products, for example, would add to the time and cost of getting treatments to the patients who need them.
The number of people living with serious conditions underlines the importance of ensuring access to the treatments. For example, there are 360,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year and around 3.5 million people in the UK are living with diabetes.
Alan Morrison, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs International, at Pharmaceutical Company MSD said: “Leaving the EU poses a number of challenges for the UK’s current access to new medicines, medical technologies and clinical trials. It is vital to guarantee patients can continue to access innovative treatments after Brexit. Agreement on the implementation period is an important step, but the focus must now move on to finding long term solutions”
Maggi Ferncombe, UNISON Regional Secretary said: “UNISON members are already in the front line facing the challenges of an under resourced NHS; London relies heavily on staff from Europe working in health and social care and we need the government to take policy positions that allow NHS workers to continue to provide the best care for patients.”
Sarah Haywood, CEO, MedCity said: “The life sciences industry is critical to us all. Without an effective and efficient industry we will not receive the new medicines and treatments that are needed by our health service and each of us as patients.
Careful regulatory processes and new drugs trials are essential for us to know that the medicines we take are effective and safe. As we approach Brexit, the life sciences industry is speaking with one voice – the UK must remain part of the European systems for regulation and trialling of new medicines. This is key if we want to ensure that our clinicians are involved in the development and testing of new medicines and if we want patients in the UK to have the earliest possible access to innovative treatments.”
Notes to editors
The full report, entitled ‘Post Brexit access to the Medicines and Medical Technologies’ can be accessed at www.london.gov.uk/brexit-nhs
All survey results, unless otherwise specified, are based on an online survey conducted by the Greater London Authority of 459 London doctors between 8th – 13th March 2018.