European Qualifications (Health and Social Care Professions) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:45 pm on 7th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Jolly Baroness Jolly Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health) 12:45 pm, 7th March 2019

My Lords, I think that there is agreement across this House that we should work to prepare this country as best we can for Brexit and the potential of a disastrous no deal. I welcome this morning’s response from the Home Office Minister in this House that she believes that no deal is unlikely.

A consequence of no deal will be that the UK is no longer part of the automatic electronic alert system between health regulators, which exchanges information on health professionals who are no longer allowed to practise in the country. The NHS is vital for our country and for the lives of our citizens. Our healthcare professionals are the backbone that holds in place the institution that we hold dear. It is imperative that the legislation is effective at retaining a frictionless flow of EEA and Swiss workforce, along with the care that they bring.

There are several areas of concern. I am concerned that impact assessments have not been done in all circumstances in relation to these SIs and that consultation has sometimes been rushed, or that little public consultation or sector consultation has been done. I intend to ask the Minister questions that are thematic. I do not mind if she does not have the time or the information to be able to respond to them today; I am quite happy for the answers to come in a letter, which I would like to be placed in the Library.

A no-deal Brexit would not allow temporary workers, and it is vague when it comes to permanent workers due to a lack of specific evidence about qualifications. I would like some light shed on this. Can the Minister confirm that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, vital EEA medical workers will not be treated as international medical graduates—IMG—so that they can easily work for our NHS and will not have to endure long and arduous registration processes which in some cases have been known to take up to at least a year? When do the Government plan to provide guidance to healthcare professional regulators on the information required to obtain Privy Council consent to remove a qualification from automatic acceptance should they have patient safety concerns? It is important that this process can be invoked quickly should concerns arise.

How do the Government intend to approach the two-year review of the SI? Will they commit to reform of professional regulators’ legislation to allow the process for registering healthcare professionals who qualified outside the UK to be fair and consistent for all professionals, regardless of where they qualified?

I think the Minister is aware of issues around Spanish and Irish nurses. What conversations are we having with Spanish health services about the gradation of Spanish nurses to ensure that, as long as they stay here, their years working here count towards their time in the Spanish system? I had the privilege of meeting some Spanish nurses working in Taunton. They thoroughly enjoy working here but would be really anxious were this to go, because they would then feel that they would not be able to return home with any credit for the work they have done here. My noble friend Lady Thornton has already covered the issues that the scrutiny committee raised.

Moving away from the healthcare professions, why have the results of the consultation process relating to the Human Medicines (Amendment) regs and the other two SIs we are discussing not been released? Instead, the Government have provided a response that gives little transparency on any key concerns that were raised during the consultation process, or the specific organisations approached. The changes laid out in the SI are wide-ranging and many call for the establishment of new responsibilities, transference of powers or further discussions with EU counterparts. Is it realistic that the industry will be able to handle these changes in the short period remaining before 29 March and during the transition period afterwards? The MHRA does really good work and I assume that it will be taking on this work independently of the EMA, so will the MHRA receive additional funding to support this extra work?

Moving on to the Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, noble Lords got very exercised about this issue in the immediate aftermath of the referendum. The impact assessment says:

“Although this contingency legislation aims to help business in their preparations for a no-deal scenario, there is a risk that due to the requirements set out, businesses will not have sufficient time to prepare. In the event of no deal being agreed with the EU before 29 March 2019, the MHRA will have regulatory processes in place so that businesses will have the relevant information to prepare for this scenario”.

Are we to take it from this that if we crash out with no deal on 29 March, not having agreed this with the EU until directly before, the regulatory process will not be in place?

I thank the Minister for listening and, as I said, I am quite happy for her to write if she is not able to respond to all these questions now.