Government guidance for adult social care providers: are you ready for a no-deal Brexit?

The advice from the government should be considered carefully and the appropriate planning and preparation undertaken as failure to do so could result…

Overview

The Department of Health and Social Care has issued guidance on what adult social care providers and local authorities need to do in order to prepare and help to manage any potential disruption to services in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The guidance is grouped around these themes:

  • Supply of medicines, medical devices and clinical consumables
  • Supply of non-clinical consumables, goods and services
  • Business continuity plans
  • Workforce
  • Recognition of professional qualifications
  • Data sharing, processing and access
  • Help and who to contact

In detail

Supply of medicines, medical devices and clinical consumables

The guidance states that the government is working with both suppliers and pharmaceutical companies to ensure a continued supply of medicines, devices and consumables following the UK’s departure from the EU. On this basis, the advice is not to stockpile. The guidance also asks providers to give the same advice to service users. To help address any local supply issues, before the UK leaves the EU, if your organisation relies on receiving products from the EU with lead times of 24 to 48 hours, plan for longer lead times of up to five days and be sure that you are prepared to receive stock deliveries outside normal hours.

Supply of non-clinical consumables, goods and services

As above, the government advises that it is working with suppliers, providers and local authorities across the sector to support supply of these non-clinical goods and services, which include IT service agreements and infrastructure, waste management, facilities management, service maintenance contracts, laundry services and food and catering. The advice around these is to ensure that any risks and issues have been identified and included in business continuity and/or contingency plans. Any concerns should be reported to your local resilience forum.

Business continuity or contingency plans

These should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they are up to date and consistent with other local contingency plans, particularly those being developed by your local resilience forum. The government also advises having plans in place to ensure continuity of care post-Brexit and refers to the Care Provider Alliance’s contingency plan template. Help with these can be sought from your director of adult social services, local authority or local care association.

Workforce

Capacity and activity plans should be regularly reviewed and business or contingency plans should deal with staffing issues. Staff who are EU citizens should be informed of the EU Settlement scheme, by which they can register for settled status if they have been in the UK for five years or pre-settled status if they have been here for less than five years. The deadline for applications is 31 December 2020 if there is a no-deal Brexit, or 30 June 2021 if the UK leaves the EU with a deal. The government states that there will be no need for any changes to EU staff employment contracts, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, whilst any risks to service delivery should be notified to your local commissioner, director of adult social services or the CQC.

Recognition of professional qualifications

On 7 March 2019 the government put in place legislation to ensure that professional qualifications from institutions in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland will still be recognised by all professional regulators in the health and social care sectors when the UK leaves the EU, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, including the Health and Care Professions Council, the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the General Pharmaceutical Council and the General Dental Council. The effect of this is that health and care staff from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland currently practising in the UK can continue to do so.

Data sharing, processing and access

As an EU member state, personal data can be transferred freely between the UK, other EU member states and other ‘adequate countries’, defined by the EU as having adequate levels of data protection. This may be restricted in the event of a no-deal Brexit however, so the advice is to check whether your organisation relies on the transfer of personal data either from other EU member states or other adequate countries. If it does and this data may be affected, you are advised to put in place arrangements to ensure continued protection and exchange of that personal data. Check the advice from ICO, NHS England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on data protection in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Help and who to contact

Issues around supply of medicines and vaccines should be reported to your community pharmacist or the National Supply Disruption Response centre (‘NSDR’) if you experience disruption to supplies after we leave the EU. For medical devices, clinical consumables and on-clinical goods and services, you are advised to follow your usual processes but if these are exhausted and alternative products are not available, you should contact your director of adult social services, local authority EU Exit lead or local resilience forum. Disruption to supplies post-exit should again be reported to the NSDR. Any risks to service delivery should be notified to your local commissioner, director of adult social services and the CQC as soon as possible.

Conclusions and recommendations

It remains to be seen whether the UK will leave the EU on a no-deal basis. However, at this stage, adult social care providers cannot ignore the possibility or the associated risks. The advice from the government should be considered carefully and the appropriate planning and preparation undertaken as failure to do so could result in serious problems with care provision and delivery.

If you would like to know more about our legal update or have any questions, please contact Morris Hill, Legal Director on 0151 242 7990, or email morris.hill@weightmans.com

Weightmans has a team of Brexit expert lawyers operating across all sectors and stand ready to assist you. If you would like to discuss any Brexit issues, please contact Jacqui Bickerton at jacqui.bickerton@weightmans.com or our Brexit group at brexit.group@weightmans.com.

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