Keep Calm And Carry On: How Can The Healthcare And Life Sciences Industries Weather The Brexit Storm?

Author:Ms Karen Taylor

We have now had the best part of a week to absorb the momentous news that the UK has voted to leave the European Union. Much has been written about this seismic event and, following our blog in February this year, on what Brexit might mean for the healthcare and life sciences industries,i we thought we should use this week's blog to update our views on the potential risks and opportunities for our life sciences and healthcare sectors.

What we know for certain is that the UK government faces the unprecedented task of engineering the UK's withdrawal from the EU, in the absence of any template or good practice model. We also expect that Brexit will not happen immediately nor indeed for at least another two years. For now, the UK can draw on its evident strengths, including the fact that it:

is in the top tier of the world's most competitive economies has strong institutions and a highly skilled workforce has enjoyed a great deal of success in attracting inward investment has four of the world's top 20 universities (and the strongest global university rankings in Europe) enjoys unemployment rates among the lowest in Europe, with employment at record levels demonstrating a level of economic resilience in the face of slower growth in much of the rest of the world. In considering the likely risks to this position for the healthcare and life sciences industries, it is useful to examine the implications through a number of specific lenses: talent, regulation and investment and research funding.


Both health and life sciences companies are dependent on the mobility of skills across Europe, with over 10 per cent of doctors, four per cent of nurses and 15 per cent of academic staff in UK research institutions, from other EU countries.ii While the leave vote could eventually result in restrictions of the free movement of people in the EU, it may also deter other EU staff, with the requisite clinical and research skills, from choosing to work in the UK. While the above percentages may seem like a relatively small proportion of staff (in England this equate to some 55,000 out of 1.2 million NHS staff), a recent National Audit Office report highlights the fragility of the current staffing situation in the English NHS. Currently the gap between what providers say they need and the numbers in post is some 5.9 per cent (or around 50,000 full-time equivalents) with notable gaps in nursing, midwifery and health visitors.iii Losing the EU as a source...

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