NHS staff told to toe government line on Brexit

Reports claim that NHS arm’s-length bodies, including NHS England, are being made to ensure that all their communications are correctly ‘aligned’ to the government’s stance on Brexit.

The Health Service Journal claims to have seen a memo from the Department of Health and Social Care in which government official explain that all NHS arm’s-length bodies will be sent the ‘top lines from the core EU exit script’ on email every week from Downing Street.

Although the briefing suggests that the government will ‘work in an energetic and determined way to get that better deal’, it says that the UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October ‘whatever the circumstances’. It goes further to say that ‘all necessary funding will be make available’, including ‘the extra lubrication of the money committed to in the Withdrawal Agreement’, whilst also discussing ‘an unequivocal guarantee to the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us’.

It was previously revealed in February that arms-length bodies were having to send every text, tweet, email, phone call and press release that touches upon the topic of Brexit to the Department of Health and Social Care for clearance. The latest memo builds on that move, emphasising the need for communications to be in line with the government’s stance on a no-deal Brexit, including making rapid changes should the government make progress in negotiations with the EU.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, responded: “It’s staggering that ministers are attempting to silence NHS staff from telling the truth about the disastrous consequences for patients’ health of a no-deal Brexit. Boris Johnson is either again trying to mislead patients or is running scared of the implications of his own policy. Matt Hancock should lift this gagging order now.”

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