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Preparing for a no-deal Brexit

Guidance for members on preparing for a no-deal Brexit


This page will help you think about the possible consequences of a no-deal Brexit for your practice.
It outlines the key points in the UK Government’s recent guidance on no-deal Brexit planning for providers of NHS services in England. That guidance was addressed to all providers, including optical practices. However, we've recently heard informally that the Government doesn't expect all providers to act on the guidance at this stage.

Parts of the guidance will also be relevant to optical practices located in other parts of the UK, and to practices that don’t provide NHS services. 

This page also summarises what other governments in the UK have said about no-deal Brexit planning for health service providers.

For general information about Brexit and optical practices, see our common questions and answers about Brexit and optics.

Should I start preparing for a no-deal Brexit?

If you have a role in running an optical practice, you will need to start thinking about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for your practice, and how to manage them.

The UK Government has negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, including a transition period after leaving the EU which would avoid a disorderly no-deal Brexit. But it remains unclear whether Parliament will agree to the Withdrawal Agreement, or (if not) whether the UK Government will be able to make other arrangements, such as suspending the withdrawal process, in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The UK Government has therefore stepped up its planning for a no-deal Brexit. In late December 2018 the Government published new guidance for healthcare providers in England on preparing for no-deal.

Given the high level of political uncertainty around the outcome of the Brexit process, we recommend that if you have a role in running a UK optical practice, you should: 

  • Read the summary on this page of the relevant key points in the December 2018 UK Government guidance
  • Consider whether you need to read the full Government guidance, and/or take any follow-up action

The UK Government guidance – key points

The UK Government guidance says that providers must consider and plan for the risks that may arise due to a no-deal Brexit. 

In particular, the Government says that providers should now take the following steps:

Medicines, medical devices and clinical consumables

1. Continue to follow the UK Government’s previous advice not to stockpile medicines, medical devices or clinical consumables beyond business as usual stock levels, because the Government is developing UK-wide contingency plans for continued supply
2. Advise your patients that they do not need to stockpile additional medicines at home


3. If you have health and care staff who are EU citizens, tell them about the new EU Settlement Scheme (see I have staff who are UK citizens – what do I need to do? below)
4. If you think workforce problems may pose a risk to the delivery of your contracted services, notify your local commissioner and your regional NHS EU Exit Team as soon as possible

Data protection

5. If you operate in the EU or EEA as well as the UK, or if you transfer personal data between the UK and the EU/EEA: 
  • Consider whether disruption to such data transfers could affect patient care or could have other serious impacts 
  • Follow the guidance published by the Government and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on data protection in the context of a no-deal Brexit 
6. If you need to complete the Data Security and Protection Toolkit, consider doing so before the March 2019 deadline so that you can consider and address any vulnerabilities before Brexit

I have staff who are EU citizens – what do I need to do?

In late 2018 the UK Government ran a pilot scheme to allow EU citizens to stay in the UK after Brexit, which was open to people employed in health and social care, including GOC registrants. The pilot scheme closed in December 2018, and a new EU Settlement Scheme is now open. You can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme here

The UK Government has said that:

  • UK businesses with health and care staff who are citizens of another EU member state should tell them about the new EU Settlement Scheme
  • The new Scheme will remain open until the end of 2020 in the event of a no-deal Brexit, so there will be plenty of time for EU citizens to register

What other governments in the UK have said about no-deal Brexit planning

Since healthcare is a devolved matter in the UK, each of the UK’s governments has a role in planning for the impact of a no-deal Brexit on healthcare services. This page summarises recent public statements from the devolved governments on no-deal Brexit planning. Members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may want to contact their national optometry body (Optometry Scotland, Optometry Wales or Optometry Northern Ireland) if they have specific queries about the work of the relevant government.


On 18 December 2018 the Scottish Government gave a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Preparations for EU Exit, which said that:

  • The Scottish Government will work with the UK Government and others to prepare for any Brexit eventuality, and has decided to accelerate work to mitigate the impact of a no-deal outcome
  • The Scottish Government’s attempts to ensure continuing supplies of medicines are being hampered by a lack of information about which medicines could be subject to supply problems, although the UK Government had recently agreed to share this data
  • Work on stockpiling of medical devices and clinical consumables in Scotland is ongoing
  • The evidence is clear that a no-deal outcome would be a disaster, and the Scottish Government has called on the UK Government to rule it out


On 19 December 2018 the First Minster of Wales said a no-deal outcome would be a catastrophic failure, but the Welsh Government has been preparing for it and will be further intensifying work to develop contingency plans.

The Welsh Government has published web pages on preparing Wales for a no-deal Brexit, including a page on health and social services.

The Welsh Government has also set up an online Brexit Portal which is intended to help support Welsh businesses to mitigate the risks of Brexit.

Northern Ireland

Devolved government in Northern Ireland was suspended in 2017. Direct rule from Westminster has not been reinstated, but UK Government ministers are responsible for oversight on a care and maintenance basis. The Department of Health in Northern Ireland does not appear to have published any recent guidance or statement about preparation for a no-deal Brexit. 

Published: 10 January 2019
Last updated: 2 April 2019