So, the letter from Theresa May is in the post.
But what does this mean for the UK's private healthcare sector?
In the run up to the vote, the “Healthier in the EU” website launched. The campaign's message was that the EU allows the UK to pool resources with our closest neighbours to tackle important issues from public health (air pollution, tobacco, chemicals) to health innovation (medicines approvals, research networks) to large frameworks of healthcare (cross-border healthcare, international patients’ groups). But its pleas didn't convince the voting public.
Challenges to London's pre-eminence?
London's private healthcare sector is a resounding success. It brings together multinational expertise, much of it derived from London's teaching hospitals, and makes it available to a global patient audience. When we exit the EU, will centres such as Paris and Berlin slowly replace London as the centres of knowledge and expertise in some specialties?
With London's hospitals generating 25% to 30% of their revenue from international patients, will Brexit damage London/the UK's destination image, make us a less attractive place to come for treatment and encourage international patients to look elsewhere?
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the UK's private healthcare sector will be the added difficulty of recruiting staff for the UK's private hospitals. One thing our membership has done is to make it easier for other Europeans to come to the UK to work.
Last week the Guardian reported on the impact on the NHS:
"The number of EU nationals registering as nurses in England has dropped by 92% since the Brexit referendum in June, and a record number are quitting the NHS, it can be revealed."
The loss of foreign staff is being blamed by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the government's failure to provide EU nationals with any security about their future. The UK is undoubtedly less attractive to clinical and nursing staff than before. My last experience of care in a UK private hospital was notable for the international nature of the staff - a UK private healthcare team… from India, Serbia, Portugal, Lithuania, Egypt, Romania, Turkey and Russia. How will the private sector deal with a potential skills and staff shortage?
We know that the rising cost of private medical insurance has contributed to a decline in the number of people who are covered. Will the declining pound and the potential impact on trade, mean that private hospitals will be facing bigger bills for the drugs, consumables and equipment that they buy in from elsewhere? How much will Brexit increase the cost of a Siemens CT scanner? And how will the private hospitals and insurers recover the increase in costs?
A lively topic for discussion In June
No doubt there will be plenty to talk about at the Private Healthcare Summit in London on Tuesday 20th June 2017. At last year’s event over 170 of the country’s senior executives from the private healthcare industry came together to converse about the current state, and the future of the market. With Article 50 finally triggered, there will be plenty of debate about what this means for the future of the UK’s healthcare industry. Come and join the discussion.