A new study suggests that over half of the health technology used in the UK in 2016 came from the EU, raising direct concerns for patient wellbeing as a consequence of changing future trading arrangements.
The majority of imported health technologies used by the NHS come from the EU, the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI) can reveal. The data illustrates the importance of getting post-Brexit trading relationships right for UK patients.
An in-depth study of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) database, “UK Trade Info”, has shown that of the £5billion worth of health technology used in the NHS in 2016, £3.2billion came directly from the EU. Reliance on this source has also increased by 20% in recent years.
Complex, international supply chains mean that products can move across a currently frictionless UK/EU border many times in their lifecycle, for sourcing, assembly, packaging and sterilisation. The impact of delays and disruption to this process could pose a significant risk to patients if not correctly managed.
The UK also exports around £2billion of health technologies to the EU, a market that ABHI Members identified in a recent business survey as a major target for growth in 2018. The same delays and disruptions pose a threat to the health of patients throughout Europe.
The industry body is calling for all products used in healthcare to be exempt from any new customs, tariff or VAT arrangements, and afforded pre-shipping clearance and fast track access across any new EU/UK borders.
ABHI CEO comments
Commenting on the analysis, ABHI CEO Peter Ellingworth said: “The nature of supply chains for HealthTech is such that even goods manufactured in the UK are often, ultimately supplied to the NHS from distribution centres in the EU. It is vital, therefore, that we have sensible trading agreements in place the moment we leave the EU.”