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HSE preparations for the impact of Brexit

The HSE has been preparing so that the impact of Brexit on the health service is managed and mitigated to the greatest extent possible.

Published: 14 December 2020

HSE preparations for the impact of Brexit

The HSE has been preparing so that the impact of Brexit on the health service is managed and mitigated to the greatest extent possible.

The UK left the EU on January 31, 2020, when an 11-month transition period began. This transition period ends on December 31 2020 and a new UK-EU relationship officially begins on January 1 2021.

The impact of Brexit will result in some changes in the way the HSE operates. For example, there will be Environmental Health controls on food at Dublin and Rosslare ports and Dublin Airport and additional GDPR requirements in relation to transfers of personal data to the UK.

We should all do our best to inform ourselves on what Brexit means personally and professionally.

Access to Healthcare

Currently Irish and UK residents have the right to access healthcare in each jurisdiction under both EU legislation and the Common Travel Area.  After the end of the Brexit transition period, the healthcare arrangements covered by EU legislation will no longer apply to the UK. The Irish Government has recently introduced legislation to help ensure that access to healthcare under the CTA  continues after Brexit.

Common Travel Area

Ireland and the UK are part of the Common Travel Area (CTA). This was in place before Ireland and the UK joined the EU.

The CTA means that Irish and UK residents can move freely between the two countries to:

  • live
  • work
  • access public services - including healthcare

The Irish and UK Governments are committed to maintaining the current CTA based healthcare arrangements. Under the CTA, Irish and UK residents who live in, work in, or visit the other state have the right to access healthcare there under certain circumstances. Other North-South cooperation arrangements will also continue on the island of Ireland.

The government is working to make sure that new CTA based arrangements will provide, to the greatest extent possible, continued access to health services:

  • between Ireland and the UK
  • on the island of Ireland - where patients in both jurisdictions currently access services

Details of these new arrangements will be published soon.

Cooperation between North and South

The HSE EU and North-South Unit contributes to the health and wellbeing of people living in the border region and beyond. It enables better access to health and social care services. It does this through North-South, all-island and multi-country work.

The Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) partnership between health services North and South has been in place for over 25 years.

This partnership includes the HSE, the Western and Southern Health and Social Care Trusts, Public Health Agency Northern Ireland and Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland.

This work will continue after Brexit.

North-South access to health services

These services are often arranged through service level agreements and include:

  • All-Island Paediatric Cardiology services
  • North West Cancer Centre, Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry
  • Cross-border Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Services

The Irish and UK governments are committed to continuing North-South arrangements.  

Medicines

We continue to work with our partners and stakeholders to review the supply of medicines to Ireland.

These include:

  • the Department of Health
  • the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA)
  • makers of medicines
  • wholesalers
  • pharmacists 

In the unlikely event that issues for some supplies do happen, we are well placed to deal with them. We will monitor the situation up to the end of the transition period and for many months after.

Medical Devices

The HSE, the Department of Health and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) are working together to assess the supply of medical devices to Ireland, identify any potential vulnerabilities, and take appropriate steps to mitigate any potential risk posed by Brexit.  

Medical devices include items as diverse as contact lenses; heart valves and hospital beds; theatre equipment and radiotherapy machines; surgical instruments and syringes; wheelchairs and walking frames or other assistive technology products; pregnancy tests, blood glucose monitors and pacemakers.  

Food safety

Food safety is subject to EU legislation.

The UK leaving the EU will affect the food control system in Ireland.

Additional environmental health staff have been hired and they will check imports where Ireland is the first point of entry to the EU.

GDPR

Transfers of personal data to the UK can continue but must comply with specific European Union rules and safeguards relating to the transfer of personal data to third countries. To be Brexit-ready, managers within the HSE have been informed of these requirements and are ensuring that the appropriate arrangements are in place for January 1 2021.

Readiness Documents

Both the European Commission and the Irish Government have issued planning material in relation to Brexit Readiness. This can be accessed on the websites of the European Commission and the Department of An Taoiseach. Managers must familiarise themselves with these documents as well as forwarding them on to any Section 38 or 39 agencies they contract.

Transport

For information about car, bus and rail transport and Brexit visit www.gov.ie/transport

Vaccines

To date, there is no evidence to suggest that Ireland is likely to face routine vaccine supply issues, now or in the near future, as a result of any potential delays in the supply chain due to Brexit.

Qualifications

The EU Directive on Professional Qualifications allows EU and UK citizens to have professional qualifications mutually recognised.  This includes many professional health qualifications.  These arrangements have continued to operate during the transition period.  

Anybody whose UK qualification has already been recognised in Ireland before the end of the transition period (and vice versa) will still have that qualification recognised after the transition period, no matter what the future relationship is. This will also include applications in the process of being recognised at the end of the transition period.

Regulated professional qualifications

Regulated professional qualifications are qualifications you need to have by law to access or pursue a regulated profession or to engage in regulated activities in a given country.

Qualification requirements for health professions regulated in Ireland are set and assessed by the Irish regulators.

Information on health professions regulated in Ireland is on the relevant regulator's website:

A number of health professions also require recognition of professional qualifications under the Directive for the purpose of employment in the public health sector.  Further information on the recognition process for these professions can be found on the Department of Health website at http://health.gov.ie/about-us/recognition-of-qualifications/.

After Brexit, applications for UK health and social care professional qualifications to be recognised in Ireland will be processed as ‘third country’ applications. A third country is a country that is not a member of the EU. In a small number of cases, the process may take longer than is the case under the EU Directive.

If you qualified in the UK before Brexit, but have not had your professional qualifications recognised by the relevant authority, you should apply for recognition with the relevant Irish health authority.

More information can be found on the relevant authority/regulator’s website.

Communications

A public information campaign is planned for December/January to ensure that citizens are well informed about the impact of Brexit on healthcare. This will point to hse.ie/brexit for up to date information.

The HSE has dedicated staff who can advise on the following areas: Environmental Health, Continuity of Patient & Client Services, GDPR, Supply of Goods & Services, Public Health, Workforce Planning, Cross Border & Frontier Arrangements and the National Ambulance Service.

More information

To keep up-to-date on how Brexit will affect our health services go to hse.ie/brexit and visit the Department of Health website

If you have questions about the impact of Brexit on your health service email brexit@hse.ie.