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Your stem cell transplant after Brexit

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Since 1  February 2020, the UK has no longer been a member of the European Union (EU). Since then, the British government and the EU have been negotiating our future relationship during the agreed 11-month implementation period. 

Ahead of this period ending, both the UK and EU leaders announced an agreed Free Trade Agreement which will determine rules for how businesses can trade with Europe, how UK/EU borders will be managed and arrangements for many sectors including finance and healthcare. 

The Free Trade Agreement was confirmed by the UK’s Houses of Parliament and the European Commission. Until 1 January 2021, the free movement of goods, people, services and financial payments between the UK and the EU continued as they had done before. 

Businesses and charities like Anthony Nolan in the UK moved to the agreed rules of the new Free Trade Agreement from 1 January 2021. 

What happened from 1 January 2021?

Having agreed a Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the 27 member states of the European Union, new rules will govern:

  • how goods and services cross between the UK and the EU
  • on travelling, living and working abroad
  • the rates of import taxes for supplies coming in from the EU. 

For some rules, such as those involving the movement of tissues and cells, UK authorities agreed a 6-month phased transition from 1 January 2021 to allow time for organisations such as Anthony Nolan to introduce any new requirements. 

We expect the importing and exporting of stem cell donations to continue smoothly into 2021. 

How is Anthony Nolan responding to the UK’s departure?

As part of our planning for life outside of the EU, and the implementation of the new Free Trade Agreement, we’re continuing to make sure the government fully understands our lifesaving work and continuing to explore potential opportunities which could help support the stem cell registry, further champion clinical trials and improve services. 

Temporary changes to the UK/EU border, as a result of further coronavirus restrictions in December 2020, enabled Anthony Nolan to work with our partners in implementing some of our transportation plans. The results confirmed that we have a safe and secure supply chain to the EU, which will help to reassure patients who are waiting for or recovering from a stem cell transplant.  

As we move into 2021, we will continue to work with UK transplant centres, regulators and international partners to make sure the interests of patients are safeguarded as we meet any new requirements. We have addressed some of the most pressing questions that we think patients might have about Brexit below. 

What if my donor lives in an EU country, can they still donate to me?

Until the end of 2020, the UK followed EU rules including those relating to how human tissues and cells are collected, prepared, stored and transported internationally. This included meeting all EU safety and quality standards.

From 1 January 2021, the agreed rules of the new Free Trade Agreement between the UK and EU took effect. For areas relating to human tissues and cells, we expect the new safety and quality standards to very closely follow the previous EU rules.  

We will continue to work closely with our regulators the Human Tissues Authority (HTA), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and our partners in the EU to ensure the continued smooth supply of stem cells from donors in the EU beyond the implementation period. 

Throughout 2020, we worked hard to establish written agreements with donor registries within the EU. These independent agreements will ensure donated stem cells are handled and delivered as we expect, and for information to be shared securely between registries as it was done before. 

Will any border changes affect my donor’s cells reaching me?

Arrangements for how the movement of goods, services and people between the UK and EU member states takes place from 1 January 2021 have been agreed within the new Free Trade Agreement. With both negotiating teams having agreed these new rules, we do not expect any delays or disruption. 

Anthony Nolan proved we have a safe and secure supply chain to the EU following coronavirus-related changes to the UK/EU border in December 2020. We will continue to work with our transportation partners, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and our fantastic volunteer couriers who have years of experience of travelling quickly and efficiently across Europe and around the world. 

Will I have access to the medicines I need?

Supplies of medicines and medical products from the EU will continue under the rules agreed in the new Free Trade Agreement. We will continue to communicate with Transplant Centres, Consultants and the NHS to ensure access to all necessary medical supplies continue as normal. 

As the Free Trade Agreement with the EU is being implemented, we will continue to emphasise the need for continued undisrupted, equitable access to medicines and medical products. 

How will Brexit affect future research into stem cell transplants?

Until the end of 2020, UK research institutions and scientists were able to access research funding from the European Commission. Funding programmes such as Horizon 2020 supported projects across the UK with a recent analysis stating over half of all international funding for UK health research came from the European Commission. 

Since 1 January 2021, the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be determined by the new Free Trade Agreement, including UK researcher’s access to EU research programmes. At Anthony Nolan, we will continue to work with our international research collaborators. We’re also striving to improve access to clinical trials so that new treatments can be developed and approved more quickly. 

Further information

If you have any concerns about how Brexit or the UK’s future relationship with the EU could affect your own treatment, please speak to your medical team. They will be able to give personal advice and answer any questions you have.

You can also contact the Anthony Nolan Patient Services team on 0303 303 0303 or patientinfo@anthonynolan.org.

Information published: 19/02/19
Last update: 01/03/21

Related links

Preparing for a stem cell transplant

Having a stem cell transplant

Patients and Families Forum

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