A cross party committee of the Scottish Parliament which has been taking evidence on the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s Health and Social Care services is concerned about the effect it will have if Scotland’s powers are not retained.
Scotland’s developing Health Service and Social Care System is travelling along different lines to that of its biggest neighbour England.
The worry for those providing Health and Care services in Scotland is that on leaving the EU on 29th March 2019 that the UK adopts a Common Framework with powers currently devolved to Scotland being retained in Westminster.
In their evidence NHS Orkney stated:
“NHS Orkney believes common framework arrangements could limit the extent to which the Scottish Parliament can tailor legislation to meet Scotland’s specific requirements, particularly if the frameworks are developed via legislation at Westminster rather than as intergovernmental agreements.”
And NHS Highlands stated:
“The governance that we have in Scotland, particularly around social care service delivery, is unique in the UK… we want to ensure that any framework builds on what we already have and the uniqueness that exists in Scotland”
There are activities where shared frameworks with rUK would be in the best interests of the people of Scotland. These are areas where the EU already ensures these exist: for instance in blood safety, organ and tissue products and data protection.
Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, Lewis Macdonald MSP, , said:
“ Brexit is not solely a matter for Governments but must be transparent and inclusive of Parliament and stakeholders.
“The Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have a strong history of engagement with people and organisations and this should continue in relation to powers devolved from the EU”.
“The Parliament must maintain its role in scrutinising proposed common frameworks to safeguard the interests of patients, staff and stakeholders across Scotland. We must have the opportunity to consider and input to each of the common frameworks in relation to health and social care before they are finalised”.
Other issues which will arise when the UK leaves the EU and which are yet to be resolved by the UK Government are:
- leaving EURATOM – implications for cancer treatment
- research – loss of funding and opportunities for joint working
- staffing – no say over immigration policy – shortages in workforce
In its report the committee recognised that it was difficult to assess the impact that Brexit will have on Health and Social Care in Scotland because those areas are currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament. It is the ‘knock on’ effects, however, that were most difficult to predict and the intention of the UK Government to take Scotland’s existing powers back under its control.
The purpose of the committee’s evidence gathering and report was to try at least to investigate the implications Brexit would have on Scotland’s distinct health and social care service and highlight the arising issues.
In addition to the committee’s report there is also a SPICe briefing paper: Leaving the EU – Implications for Health and Social Care
“While the impact on health and social care services of leaving the EU is difficult to forecast, it is clear that a number of important issues will need to be resolved during negotiations. The way in which health policies are developed across the UK following Brexit is also a matter for further consideration.
“The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill proposes that post-Brexit competences, which are currently carried out at an EU level, should be carried out by the UK Parliament and Government. The UK Government has suggested that repatriated powers should be retained at UK level to protect the UK’s own single market and allow for the development of UK common frameworks. The Withdrawal Bill, proposes that once an agreement has been reached within the UK on the need for common frameworks, decisions will be made about what EU law should be kept.”
It is now less than a year before the UK leaves the EU. All the UK Government’s Brexit negotiators have achieved with their EU counterparts since June 2016 is to publish a Draft Agreement where large parts have no agreement. This gives very little time for the Health and Social Care sector to react to the impact of Brexit .
If the powers over this sector are removed from the competency of the Scottish Parliament then the risk to our NHS free at point of need integrated with our social care system is very great indeed.
The Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill would go some way to protect the sector but is being challenged in the Supreme Court by the UK Government.
This really is crunch time for Scotland’s Parliament and the advancements that have been made in Health and Social Care in Scotland since it was established.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame