Health workers’ rights will be protected post Brexit

CREDIT: This story was first seen in OnMedica

The Department of Health says the medical profession should take the lead in examining the opportunities which would arise were the UK no longer bound by the requirements of the European Working Time Directive, OnMedica reports.

In its response* to House of Commons Health Select Committee report on the impact of Brexit, the Department says the profession should advise how the junior doctors’ contract could be adapted to improve training, team working and flexibility.

The government should then work with the profession to achieve the legislative and contractual changes which Brexit might enable.

It says the directive is health and safety legislation and the overriding principle is worker health and safety. “This, patient safety and high quality care is paramount to all that we do in the NHS and we will continue to adhere to its requirements,” the department says.

It adds that the government will not roll back EU rights in the workplace as the rights enjoyed under the EU will be preserved by the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and will be brought into UK Law.

“However, the government is committed to retaining individual’s rights to opt-out of the 48-hour limit in weekly working time. This opt-out gives people flexibility and choice over their working hours. Millions of people are better off because of that choice.”

It also supports the principle that all clinicians working in the UK should be asked to demonstrate relevant language, skills and knowledge competence. Nevertheless, it says the UK has an opportunity to negotiate a more pragmatic approach to the mutual recognition of professional qualifications directive within the British regulatory model.

“Attention needs to be paid to the balance between patient safety as served by regulatory rules which may restrict access to the profession, and patient safety as served by having a workforce sufficient to meet the country’s needs. Regulation should not evolve into unnecessary bureaucratic barriers which inhibit the flow of skilled clinicians in to the NHS. Therefore, automatic recognition of some qualifications should not be excluded from possible future regulatory arrangements.”

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The Department says some regulatory bodies have concerns that MRPQ (mutual recognition of professional qualifications) limits the action they can take when registering EEA professionals, particularly by restricting tests of language competence.

“The Department agrees that a balance needs to be struck between managing this risk in a proportionate way and ensuring that the flow of skilled and valuable healthcare professionals into the NHS is not impeded by unnecessary levels of bureaucracy.”

The government says it will adopt the appropriate legislative vehicle to ensure that any changes to UK professional regulation legislation can be made in a timely way while ensuring appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny.

It also says that it will be negotiating to preserve the existing system of reciprocal healthcare so that EU nationals in the UK and people insured by the UK in other EU countries can maintain their access to healthcare.

“The UK will seek to protect the healthcare arrangements currently set out in EU Regulations and domestic UK law for UK nationals and EU citizens who benefit from these arrangements resident before the specified date to be agreed during negotiations.

“This is as set out in The United Kingdom’s Exit from the European Union: Safeguarding the Position of EU Citizens Living in the UK and UK Nationals Living in the EU. We will also seek to protect the right of UK nationals and EU citizens to benefit from the European Health Insurance Card.

“This would ensure that EU citizens remain eligible for NHS provided healthcare in the UK (and vice versa for UK nationals in the EU). The government has made good progress in recent negotiations with the EU and looks forward to continued discussions on this matter.”

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