How will Brexit affect me and my care?

[I have used my personal site to write a post for Shift.ms – nothing else on the blog is anything to do with Shift.ms – feel free to read,  it isn’t about MS though!]

This is no more than a 5-minute read.

Shift.ms has its origins in the UK and this is undoubtedly the issue of the moment here. I appreciate that you may not find this terribly relevant if you are not in the United Kingdom. Bear with!

Brexit – I suspect that I am just as bored of it as you are. Let me get this out of the way: It can be really boring. I think it is fascinating from an academic standpoint. Watching a nation engage in such a reckless act of wilful self-harm is truly extraordinary. Like Halley’s Comet – you don’t see it that often!

The short answer is that Brexit shouldn’t have any immediately discernible effect on you as an MS patient in the UK. However, – there is always a however – I will go through some potential longer-term issues.

These can be split up into several broad categories. The first is medications/devices, the second is the care staff and the third is social.

Medications:

MS causes those of us with it to sometimes require many different medications. I am assuming that, at the very least, you take a Disease Modifying Therapy (DMT). These come in three forms. For example: an injection like Rebif or Copaxone, a tablet like Tecfidera or an infusion that is conducted in a hospital/clinic. There is then a whole host of supplemental medications/devices, most of which are also used by non-MS patients as well. These include items to treat spasticity, mood, continence, pain and so on.

Brexit also stands to affect the pharmaceutical and device companies and the vast majority of them have made plans to manage what looks like it is not going to be an ideal exit. Whatever your feelings on the competence of Government as a whole, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has been in correspondence with the drug and device companies to assure supply in the event of a no-deal scenario. He says:

“The government has made significant progress in negotiations with the EU and remains confident we will leave with a good deal for both sides, that supports existing and future healthcare collaboration,” said Hancock.

“However, as a responsible government, we continue to prepare proportionately for all scenarios, including the unlikely outcome that we leave the EU without any deal in March 2019.”

“Given the significant amount of work that has now been done, I am confident this gives a clear basis for the health and care sector and the life sciences industry to plan so that patients can continue to receive high-quality care unhindered.”

Pharma has pledged to increase their drug stocks by at least six weeks on top of their usual buffer supply, ensuring plans are in place to air freight products with a short shelf life that cannot be stockpiled.

Medical device suppliers have been assured that separate contingency plans are being developed, including increasing the national level of stock holding, and have been asked to hold off for “further information until September”.

So, this is a politician speaking and I think I can safely say that to date no politician has ever been proved to be entirely accurate. However, it is the best we have to go on and it is as reassuring as it gets at the moment. We will have to wait and see how things shake out in the three to six months after leaving to try and make any longer-term predictions.

Care Staff

Many of us rely on extra care, much of the provision of which has become the preserve of immigrants to the UK. One of the central planks of the Leave campaign was the feeling that immigration needs to be more tightly controlled. Whatever your feelings on the matter, any change to the UK policies with regards to immigrants is likely to have an impact on the staffing as it is today. Nursing, home care, agency staff and the like. Not an immediate hit but I imagine we’ll start to see the effects of Brexit on care workers fairly soon. Something to be aware of.

In the UK we have come to rely on foreign expertise at the highest levels of the NHS. I am thinking of specialists in fields like neuroscience and haematology. There are a whole host of academic transfer programs with the aim of sharing knowledge and best practice. Theoretically, these may be impacted if the UK makes sweeping changes to the immigration requirements. This will not affect you immediately but there is a theoretical impact. Far too soon to tell and nothing to worry about at the moment. I’d put this in the ‘something to watch’ category.

Social

This is where the topic can get quite political. I emphasise that I am not going to bring in political opinion here. (I do that elsewhere on my blog but not in an MS context).

I am left with the feeling that there is broad agreement that Brexit is going to have an adverse economic effect on the UK. There are bound to be inevitable restrictions on benefits, social care, general care budgets. Under no circumstances will the UK benefit economically from Brexit.

Without sounding flippant, fasten your seatbelts as it will be a bumpy ride for the next few years.

My personal appeal to you is to take everything you see and hear about Brexit with a hefty pinch of salt. Remember: the competition to shock and generate a reaction drives most journalists. Brexit has run and run and that means that the stories get ever more hysterical in an attempt to keep you engaged. It is a bit like the Daily Express predicting weather Armageddon when a flake of snow falls in the Scottish hills!

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