Health and social care after Brexit (medicines and services)

Last updated: 20 December 2019

The UK will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020. We'll then enter a 'transition period' that's likely to last until the end of December 2020. During this period the UK will still follow EU rules.

Brexit will have an effect on some areas of life in Scotland.

This may include changes to health and social care.

Brexit has not happened yet, and many of the details are not yet known. This page gives the latest facts, but it will be updated as more details are confirmed. Please keep checking back for new information.

UK citizens

If you currently live in Scotland and are a UK citizen, Brexit will not affect your current rights to health and social care, including GP and hospital services. But there may be extra pressure on these services if the Brexit transition period ends before an EU trade deal has been agreed (a 'no deal' situation).

In a 'no deal' situation there are likely to be new delays at the UK border, which may reduce normal levels of supplies of:

  • some medicines
  • medical devices (instruments and other equipment used in hospitals and other health and social care settings)
  • clinical consumables (disposable or short life goods used in hospitals and other health and social care settings)

The Scottish Government, together with Welsh Government and the Administration in Northern Ireland, has been working with the UK Government to seek to maintain supplies to as close to normal as possible.

Drug companies have stockpiled in the UK medicines normally transported here from other EU countries and the NHS has stockpiled other medical supplies.

These stockpiles provide an extra six weeks of supply compared to normal levels. In addition, in the event of a 'no deal', medical supplies will be given priority for entry into the UK.

Shortages do happen in the NHS sometimes and there are systems in place to inform GPs and pharmacists about any issues: they will tell you about any that might affect your prescription.

Advice is also given to GPs and pharmacists about alternative products that can be prescribed to replace any where supply is short. This means that:

  • clinicians should not write longer NHS prescriptions than normal
  • people should not stockpile medicines at home: this can be unsafe anyway and could cause disruptions to supply

EU citizens

EU citizens currently living in Scotland will continue to be able to access health and social care.

Many EU citizens currently work in health and social care settings in Scotland and their contribution is greatly valued.

EU citizens should be able to continue working as they do now, but will need to apply for settled status before 30 June 2021.

The EU citizens living in Scotland page gives the latest information on this, including details on how to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, and on the Scottish Government's new advisory service for EU citizens.

More information

More details on health and social care after Brexit will be added to this page as new information is available.

Meanwhile, there are a number of other sites you can check for updates:

The content on this site is correct as of today's date and is based on the information available at this time. Regular updates will be made as the Brexit process develops. In the event of a 'no deal', additional advice and information will be given on this site. Please continue to check back for updates.