Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (955)

John Brassil


955. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Health the number of times the Brexit operations team in his Department has met since 25 July 2019. [35482/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government published the Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update in July, reflecting the extensive work which has taken place at EU level and on a whole-of-Government basis, to prepare for a no deal Brexit, and setting out the steps to be taken between now and 31 October.

The Department of Health, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has been engaged in extensive Brexit planning and action to ensure that the health sector is prepared, to the greatest extent possible, for any adverse impacts as a result of Brexit.

As part of the whole-of-government response to Brexit, the Department of Health has established dedicated structures to manage the approach to preparing for the UK’s exit from the EU. From an early stage, Brexit has been regularly discussed at Management Board Level within the Department including Ministerial Management Board meetings. A Management Board Subcommittee on Brexit was established to review the Department's preparedness.

A high-level group chaired by the Secretary General and comprising the heads of the HSE, HPRA, FSAI and senior officials was established to ensure alignment, cooperation and focus on Brexit preparedness and contingency planning across the health sector. Since January, this group has meet frequently to review progress at a high level, to consider the on-going political uncertainties in the UK and to provide direction to the Brexit Operations Team.

The Operations Team chaired by a Deputy Secretary General and comprising of senior officials from the Department of Health, the HSE, HPRA and the FSAI was established to identify and resolve issues and to escalate them to the high-level group if necessary. The Team provides a strategic focus on the Department and the Health Sector’s preparations for Brexit, through providing a joined-up approach to Brexit related tasks, building on significant work done to date, providing a central point for agencies to contribute, and feed into central Government’s coordinated response as well as coordinating liaison with health stakeholders and developing communication strategies for the health sector. The team focus is on implementing mitigating measures drawing on expertise from across the Department and the sector.

The Department's Brexit Operations Team has met 23 times since the start of January, including three times over the short period referred to by the Deputy. Collaboration on individual tasks arising is dealt with on an on-going basis.

The Brexit Operations Team has also established two work streams to identify critical medicines and medical devices that may be vulnerable to supply distribution as a result of Brexit. These work streams are undertaking criticality assessment exercises on potentially vulnerable medicines and medical devices and focusing their contingency planning efforts accordingly. They comprise officials from the Department, the HSE and the HPRA.

Officials from the Department have also participated fully in a range of interdepartmental groups established to support preparations for Brexit including the Secretary Generals' Group, the Assistant Secretaries’ Group, and the Senior Official Group on Legislation, the Brexit Coordinators' Group and the Brexit Communications' Group. The Department has also attended meetings with the EU Commission on Brexit.

Questions Nos. 956 and 957 answered with Question No. 950.