Brexit: The Need to Consider the Implications for the Patient

In this blog Brian Cleary looks at how different sides in the Brexit debate are not focusing on the needs of the patient when considering the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU.

We are living through an ideological battle. On one side we have a group of people, believed by many to be pragmatists, attempting to secure a workable deal that will enable Britain to carry out “business as close as possible as usual”. On the other side stand a vociferous grouping, steeped in an anti-EU dogma, who will settle for nothing less than complete separation of the UK from the European Union. These parties, however, are not the competing negotiating teams of the UK and EU. They are differing factions within Britain’s Conservative Party. So, the great difficulty that exists is that one of the negotiating parties in what is, perhaps, the most complex set of negotiations that either party has ever undertaken, is conflicted within its own ranks and must spend a considerable amount of time negotiating with their own group before meeting their European counterparts. This then begs the question: how will the UK get the best possible deal when it has not yet decided what that deal should look like?

The once evocative, and now oft parodied (particularly by The Simpsons), line “won’t somebody please think of the children?” could easily be adapted at this stage. “Won’t somebody please think of the patient?” is a reasonable request when considering the impact of Brexit on the production of medicinal products and devices. And in this undertaking there is some clever communications strategy at play. The Brexiteers ideological battles have focused on non-emotive targets; business, tariffs, customs posts, movement of people and others similar issues. It is very hard for the wider populace when faced with any of the aforementioned issues to evoke any form of an emotional response. Whereas, were the arguments to ‘think of the patient’ the response would be different, I believe. Think about it: the now famous Brexit bus raised hopes about a better funded health system and a better funded system would mean that loved ones would receive better care. That is an emotional reaction to a topic. Therefore, it could be argued, that it is in the interests of those seeking to make the cleanest break from the EU to focus on business, tariffs and other issues rather than patient safety.

Our sector, life sciences, stands to be severely impacted as supply chains will have to straddle different jurisdictions and there will be a slowing down of transport because of the anticipated delays in checking customs documentation. Additional time and effort will result in additional costs and this will have an impact on patients. Now, less than nine months away from the UK actually leaving the EU, are we any closer to a deal? No. Therefore, companies in our sector need to ensure that they have prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. It isn’t ideal and it will have a cost implication. The idea of ‘hedging’ and preparing for what might not actually happen has been highlighted by the ABPI as a significant cost to businesses that might actually prove to be a wasted endeavour.

Preparing for something that might not happen or trying to second guess the negotiations is a costly business for companies. Financially, companies will have had to make provisions for multiple scenario. Each of these exercises will have an impact on the business and subsequently on the patient.

The Brexit narrative rolls on without a firm direction. The next few months are now pivotal.

If you would like to have an initial chat with us about how Brexit is ompacting on your company and what we might be able to do to help you then please contact us.  You can call us on 00353 52 61 76 706 or simply complete the webform below and we will get back to you.