What implications will Brexit have for integrated care provision?
Journal: Journal of Community Nursing
A move towards integrated health and social care provision has been a key policy driver in the UK since 2010, underpinned by a belief that this is essential to provide holistic, person-centred care while transforming service provision. Progress towards achieving integrated care has been slow, and now Brexit poses a further challenge, as attention is focused on preparations for a 'no-deal' scenario. Ensuring that the NHS and social care systems are able to continue to function after March 2019 is now a key concern for those leading and managing frontline services, and measures are being put in place to deal with potential disruptions caused by a no-deal Brexit. This includes dealing with issues related to the recruitment and retention of European economic area (EEA) staff into the NHS, disruptions in the supply of medicines across European Union (EU) borders, challenges to the recognition of professional qualifications and patient safety, and health protection and health security within the UK post-Brexit. The imperative to prepare for a worse-case scenario diverts attention away from other key policy drivers, such as integrated care provision. It may also serve to reinforce a view of integration as a cost-cutting exercise, rather than as an approach to promote better care for patients. A move towards the transformation of care through integrated provision offers real potential for improved patient outcomes in the future, and a revitalised health service. However, Brexit has the potential to disrupt the integration agenda as financial resources and staff time become focused on dealing with the fall-out from Brexit, rather than on frontline patient care. Community and practice-based nurses and staff are in the frontline of integrated service provision, and in the next few months may be some of the first staff to witness the negative impact of Brexit preparations on the provision of integrated care.