By Chris York
With only 38 days until Britain leaves the EU and political negotiations seemingly deadlocked, the health service is hiring people to monitor the potential stockpiling of medicines, manage the supply of “critical” drugs, and ensure information can still be shared with the EU.
Screenshots obtained by HuffPost UK show the roles advertised cover a variety of positions, including senior strategic managers and regional “EU exit leads”. All roles are advertised as short-term 3-6 month secondments, “however there may be potential for these to be extended”, the advert reads.
The internal messages also show the NHS has set up a national coordination centre in Leeds to prepare for a no-deal, as well as a series of regional coordination centres. All are modelled on the NHS’s emergency preparedness teams, used in the event of a national disaster such as pandemic flu outbreak or a chemical attack.
The introductory messages on the NHS England intranet opens with the message: “EU Exit roles recruiting now!
“EU Exit need YOU! As part of the response to the EU exit we’re recruiting to a number of EU Exit roles across NHS England and NHS Improvement. Take a look at the roles and how you can register your interest,” the message reads.
So far, only a handful of the positions appear to have been filled.
Some of the key jobs being advertised, both internally and externally, include:
- Senior manager to “cover issues on maintaining the attractiveness of the UK for clinical trials”;
- Project delivery manager to look after “management of critical medicine supply issues”;
- Director to “establish function to monitor trust order levels to identify where suppliers are increasing their prices and monitor whether any stockpiling is occurring”.
NHS policy teams are “still working” to understand the impact of what they describe as “different EU scenarios”, listed as: “transition deal, no-deal and a delayed deal”.
Specifically, they are examining the “potential impact of EU Exit on medicine supply to the NHS”, the continuity of care for UK nationals resident in the EU and the “impact on the flow of data from EU to the UK”.
The national coordination centre in Leeds is currently operating on a skeleton staff “but is likely to increase cover to extended hours over 7 days for the peak period of potential disruption”, the adverts read.
“Increased capacity is now required to enable the centre to become fully operational and allow the NHS to respond to potential multiple disruptions to NHS operations arising from a no-deal Brexit.”
When asked in the commons on Tuesday how much money had already been spent on the NHS’s no-deal planning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said: “Around £11m has been spent already… and I expect it will remain at that level, if a little higher.”
Hancock has already alluded to NHS planning in the even of a no-deal, telling parliament’s health and social care committee last month that medicine “will be prioritised” over food if Brexit disrupts supply chains.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, who was also questioned at the time, said no-deal contingency plans have been “activated”.
He said: “We are assigning up to 200 people between now and 29 March in terms of no-deal Brexit preparation… if everybody in that no-deal scenario does what they are supposed to do, the NHS will continue to see the goods and supplies flow.”
Last month the Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, Niall Dickson, told the committee a no-deal Brexit would be a “real disaster” for the NHS.
NHS England has been contacted for comment.