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How will Brexit affect me as an MS patient?

How will Brexit affect me as an MS patient?

Shift.ms has its origins in the UK and this is undoubtedly the issue of the moment here. I appreciate that you may not find this terribly relevant if you are not in the United Kingdom.

The short answer is that Brexit shouldn’t have any immediately discernible effect on you as an MS patient in the UK. However, – there is always a however – I will go through some potential longer-term issues.

This can be split up into three categories. The first is medications/devices, the second is the care staff and the third is social.


Many different medications are often needed to treat MS. I am assuming that, at the very least, you take a Disease Modifying Therapy (DMT). These come in three forms. For example: an injection like Rebif or Copaxone, a tablet like Tecfidera or an infusion that is conducted in a hospital/clinic. There is then a whole host of supplemental medications/devices, most of which are also used by non-MS patients as well. These include items to treat spasticity, mood, continence, pain and so on.

Brexit also stands to affect the pharmaceutical and device companies and the vast majority of them have made plans for a possible no-deal exit from the EU. Whatever your feelings on the competence of the British Government as a whole, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has been in correspondence with the drug and device companies to assure supply in the event of a no-deal scenario. He says:

Pharma has pledged to increase their drug stocks by at least six weeks on top of their usual buffer supply, ensuring plans are in place to air freight products with a short shelf life that cannot be stockpiled.

Medical device suppliers have been assured that separate contingency plans are being developed, including increasing the national level of stock holding, and have been asked to hold off for “further information until September”.

We will have to wait and see how things shake out in the three to six months after leaving to try and make any longer-term predictions.

Care Staff

Many of us rely on extra care, much of the provision of which has become the preserve of immigrants to the UK. One of the central planks of the Leave campaign was the feeling that immigration needs to be more tightly controlled. Whatever your feelings on the matter, any change to the UK policies with regards to immigrants is likely to have an impact on the staffing of the NHS as it is today as well as nursing, home care and agency staff. It may not be an immediate hit, but I imagine we’ll start to see the effects of Brexit on such care workers fairly soon.

In the UK we have come to rely on foreign expertise at the highest levels of the NHS such as specialists in fields like neuroscience and haematology. There are also a whole host of academic transfer programs with the aim of sharing knowledge and best practice. Theoretically, these may be impacted if the UK makes sweeping changes to the immigration requirements. This will not affect patients immediately but there is a potential impact.


I am left with the feeling that there is broad agreement that Brexit is going to have an adverse economic effect on the UK. There are bound to be inevitable restrictions on benefits, social care, general care budgets. Under no circumstances will the UK benefit economically from Brexit.

Without sounding flippant, fasten your seat belts as it will be a bumpy ride for the next few years.
My personal appeal to you is to take everything you see and hear about Brexit with a hefty pinch of salt. Remember: the competition to shock and generate a reaction drives most journalists. Brexit has run and run and that means that the stories get ever more hysterical in an attempt to keep you engaged. It is a bit like the Daily Express predicting weather Armageddon when a flake of snow falls in the Scottish hills!

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About the author


Dominic is a 50y old with MS. Dad to a 16y old daughter and though having a Canadian passport as well as a British one he has lived in the UK for 4/5 of his life. He has been diagnosed for 26y, has worked in pharma, IT, consulting, was a small business founder then as a mature student has recently completed a BA (Hons) History and an MSc in Politics with Research Methods.
When he was diagnosed back in the 90’s it was by a then eminent London professor. Although he says that he had a pretty good idea by the time of the consultation the Professor just said, “I’m afraid you have MS.” That was it. Dominic asked him, “What do you suggest?” and he replied, “Eat less red meat.” That was it. Really.