Brexit threat to cross-Border health schemes under discussion

Continuation of current arrangements in everyone’s interest, says Minister for Health

The Government is drawing up contingency plans should cross-Border healthcare schemes be affected by a hard Brexit, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Under the cross-Border healthcare directive and the Treatment Abroad Scheme, Irish patients have the option of being treated in Northern Ireland if waiting lists are lengthy or a treatment is not available in the State.

However, there is concern over the future of these arrangements post-Brexit.

"The issue of access to health services in Northern Ireland, the UK and other EU member states ... is being considered," Mr Harris said on Friday.


Also under consideration is how Brexit may affect the health and social-care workforce and regulatory issues.

“The implications of the UK no longer being part of a harmonised regulatory system in relation to food-safety standards, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics are being examined,” said Mr Harris.

“The implications of Brexit for networks and organisations such as the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, European Reference Networks on rare diseases, or the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control are also under consideration.


“Ensuring continuity in the supply of medicines and medical devices following the UK’s departure from the EU is a priority.”

Mr Harris was speaking in Dundalk, at an All-Island Civic Dialogue on the implications of Brexit for cross-Border health co-operation.

He insisted that cross-Border health co-operation will continue post-Brexit “because it makes perfect sense for it to continue”.

“It is in the best interests of patients and of common benefit to Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Brexit will undoubtedly pose challenges for the health sector, as it will for every other sector. But I have no doubt that the strength and maturity of networks and relationships that have built up over time will be of great benefit as we seek to manage the implications of Brexit collectively on an all-island basis,” the Minister said.

– PA