Public Policy Dynamics UK

by RPP colleagues

Health and Politics in the United Kingdom

Total COVID-19 cases:3,260,200
14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:628.5
14-day change:-92.2
Total COVID-19 deaths:86,015
14-day rise:14,906
  • The UK has secured a trade deal with the EU covering tariff- and quota-free trade of goods and services, and covering contentious areas such as state-aid, fisheries and governance. The UK has now left the single market, ending free movement between the UK and EU; professionals must now qualify for immigration via a points-based immigration system predicated on a job offer, job skill, and language ability.
  • The UK government has launched a new UK Rare Disease Framework to improve healthcare for people with rare diseases. The Framework prioritises rapid diagnosis, health workforce education, promoting patient voices, and supporting UK and international researchers to provide specialist rare disease care.
  • All four UK nations will remain under lockdown through to at least the end of January, in stringent restrictions representing a near-return to the full national lockdown in spring last year. The UK’s successful vaccination programme, which has already provided three million jabs, will enable any easing of restrictions before the spring.

Politics

  • The UK has secured a trade deal with the EU covering tariff- and quota-free trade of goods and services, and covering contentious areas such as state-aid, fisheries and governance. Though ‘passporting’ has been scrapped, the two parties are said to be working towards mutual recognition of financial regulations to facilitate cross-border operation of financial services. Though the agreement provides for relatively frictionless trade, additional border checks and regulations have led to a decline in UK exports to the EU across sectors including fresh food and seafood.
  • The UK has now left the single market, ending free movement between the UK and EU; professionals must now qualify for immigration via a points-based immigration system predicated on a job offer, job skill, and language ability. Most health professionals qualify for immigration through the new Health and Care Worker Visa, though social care workers do not qualify and health and care sector representatives have warned the new immigration system will exacerbate workforce shortages.
  • A further key aspect of the deal is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which leaves Northern Ireland bound to the EU’s customs regulations in order to avoid a “hard border” and customs checks within the island. A key implication of this is that EU state aid rules will apply to at least significant portions of the NI-EU trade. There is a risk that this arrangement threaten the integrity of the internal UK market if the UK seeks to diverge substantially from EU regulations.

 

Health

  • Setting the post-Brexit regulatory framework in healthcare, the Medicines and Medical Device Bill is currently under scrutiny in the House of Lords. It ties in with the government’s strategy to become a leader in the life sciences sector and places particular importance on the UK as an attractive place to roll out innovative medicines and medical devices. Peers have recently amended the Bill to mandate the appointment of a patient safety commissioner as patient safety and representation looks to play a central role in medicines and medical devices regulation in the UK over the coming years.
  • In tandem with the regulatory provisions of the Bill, the UK government has launched a new UK Rare Disease Framework to improve healthcare for people with rare diseases. The Framework prioritises rapid diagnosis, health workforce education, promoting patient voices, and supporting UK and international researchers to provide specialist rare disease care.
  • Its commitments on diagnosis build on advances in diagnostic technologies including genomic sequencing, and complement the UK’s Genome UK strategy to promote genomic screening for rare diseases. New efforts in diagnosis will be supported by educational campaigns on innovative technologies and rare disease prognoses, while international industry bodies and researchers will be supported to better understand diseases and develop new affordable treatments.

 

COVID-19

  • All four UK nations will remain under lockdown through to at least the end of January, in stringent restrictions representing a near-return to the full national lockdown in spring last year. The Scottish Government has tightened restrictions to ban click-and-collect services from non-essential shops, and the UK Government has handed police greater powers to enforce social restrictions. Hospital admissions for COVID-19 are 50 percent higher than the peak in April 2020, though infections are stabilising across England and further restrictions in England are unlikely.
  • The UK’s successful vaccination programme, which has already provided three million jabs, will enable any easing of restrictions before the spring. Vaccines are being administered across 50 vaccination centres, which include some football stadiums; 206 hospital hubs; and 1,200 local vaccination services including primary care networks and community pharmacists.
  • There are now 21 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the UK – enough to cover all over-70s, care home residents and health staff by mid-February – and health ministers have provisionally raised vaccination targets to three million per week by the start of February.

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