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The response to our joint cancer charity letter to the Department of Health

In February, we co-signed a joint letter with other cancer charities to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care which outlined concerns regarding cancer research in the UK post Brexit

Yesterday, Stephen Hammond MP, Minister of State for Health and EU Exit Ministerial lead at DoH, finally gave us a reply.

We joined forces with eleven other charities to express our concerns to the Government in a joint letter about the future of cancer research and services in the UK, raising important points around the treatment and study of cancer after the UK’s departure from the EU.

In the reply we received, health minister Stephen Hammond set out assurances and procedures around the supply and stockpiling of medicines and the continuation of UK-EU clinical trials and clinical investigations, as well as broader medical research matters in the context of the UK leaving the EU.

The letter addressed:

  • That Parliament rejected the idea of UK leaving without a deal but the DoH are still considering the impact of the 31 October extension on EU exit preparations

  • Supply and stockpiling medicines is their key priority. They say they are continuing to work with industry and patient-led organisations, as well as keeping to their no-deal preparations while not giving any guarantees that everything with go smoothly: “if everyone does what they need to do, the supply of medicines and medical products shouldn’t be interrupted in the event we leave the EU without a deal.”

  • Serious Shortage Protocol (SSPs) remain in place. These are detailed protocols to ensure patients get medicines in the unlikely event there is a serious shortage. This will only apply to prescribed medicines dispensed by retail pharmacies, rather than hospital written prescriptions
  • That the UK’s ability to participate in multinational trials, in the EU or the rest of the world, will not change and that data generated in a UK clinical trial or clinical investigation will continue to be admissible for regulatory purposes in the EU and across the world. UK organisations will be able to sponsor clinical trials and clinical investigations in the EU/EEA
  • That the UK will continue to be involved with EU medical research. The letter restressed their commitment stay involved in excellence-based European science and innovation programmes with a key commitment in the Withdrawal Deal, which keeps the door open for UK participation in EU Programmes post-2020
  • That in regards to workforce, the EU Settlement Scheme is now fully open, meaning EU, EEA and Swiss citizens can now apply to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. It is hoped that not only does the UK want the EU NHS workforce (approx 64,000 total) to stay but also to feel welcome to stay. Following the Home Office Immigration White Paper in December, the Government is now implementing a period of engagement with industry and this will include issues such as salary thresholds forming part of the future immigration system

The way the UK leaves the European Union has produced a great deal of worry for researchers working in the brain tumour field, as well as our wider patient community.

These issues are vital to maintaining a decent standard of care for our community and we welcome the Government’s response.

We will continue to monitor the situation as negotiations proceed and keep our community updated.