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13.11.18

NHS faces £2.3bn bill in no-deal Brexit in medicine and supplies cost surge

A ‘no-deal’ Brexit would deliver a “cost shock” to the NHS which would eat up all the funding available to improve patient care for the next two years through a surge in the cost of medicine and supplies.

New analysis from the Nuffield Trust, drawing from academic and government assessments of how the extra red tape and barriers to trade would drive up costs, estimates that a no-deal Brexit would cost the NHS an extra £2.3bn by 2020.

It said that the main component driving up costs would be the extra cost of medical devices, medicines and other good and supplies, not the price of stockpiling, as the ultimate amount of medicines the NHS needs would remain the same.

The research was published by Mark Dayan, Nuffield Trust’s Brexit expert and policy analyst, who warned that if Brexit results in a no-deal, then “the days of indefinite austerity for the health service would be back.”

Dayan said: “Even with quite cautious assumptions about how much prices would rise; this calculation suggests a no deal Brexit would have a noticeable impact on NHS finances.

“That money will have to be taken from somewhere, and £2.3bn is equivalent to the entire annual budget of around six NHS trusts.

“Unfortunately, a no deal scenario would also mean less money in the Treasury to bail out the service.”

Dayan warned in his blog that the level of uncertainty made it hard to predict, but concluded that the extra costs on this scale would swallow up all the money available to improve services for patients for next year and likely the year after.

As a decision on Brexit looms, his research examined increases in prices for medical devices such as X-ray machines, medicines and other supplies such as bedding and food.

For medical devices, statistics from HM Revenue and Customs showed that last year around £3.4bn worth was imported from the EU, of which £2.9bn was spent by health services in the UK.

The price of medicines would rise in the case of a no-deal Brexit by an estimated extra £830m for unbranded medicine and £920m in branded medicines, and the cost of supplies rising by an estimated £88m.

Image credit - sturti

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