Department of Health must approve all NHS communication about Brexit

Watch what you say about Brexit! Department of Health must approve all NHS texts, tweets and emails about how the UK’s departure from the EU may affect the health service

  • Leaked email from a director at the Department of Health and Social Care
  • ‘External communication’ must be cleared to give public ‘clear information’
  • Includes press releases and even phone calls to members of the public 

The Department of Health has insisted on approving all texts, tweets and emails sent out by the NHS concerning Brexit.

A leaked email from the director of communications at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) revealed any ‘external communication’ must be cleared to ensure the public gets ‘consistent and clear information’.

This comes after the NHS Blood and Transplant Authority tweeted earlier this month about blood donor sessions being moved from Dover for six months to avoid traffic disruption during Brexit.

Department of Health must approve all messages sent out by the NHS about Brexit (stock)

In an email leaked to the HSJ, Rachel Corr said of the tweet – which has since been removed: ‘This was not cleared either through the EU exit comms team or through the secretary of state.

‘At a time of some uncertainty, it is important the public gets consistent and clear information. 

‘We have been very clear with your EU exit leads that every piece of external communication must be cleared through us.’

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Ms Corr stressed every piece of communication – from emails to suppliers to phone calls to members of the public – must be flagged and cleared.

And some even have to get the go-ahead from ministers and the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU). 


The Dutch government is desperately trying to get access to life-saving medicines from the UK in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Lives could be put at risk in the Netherlands if drug supplies across the Channel are interrupted, hospitals there have warned.

The country’s health minister, Bruno Bruins, said the government had identified 50 vital medicines which have no suitable alternatives on the Dutch market.

But he refused to reveal the names of the drugs out of fear other countries would hoard them.

Although Ms Corr acknowledged waiting for approval can be frustrating, she stressed her team is working as fast as it can to get things cleared.

She added sharing as much information as possible when making requests would speed up the process.

The procedure involves all arm-length bodies – a common term for public departments or agencies – sending information to communications officers at the DHSC. 

Arm-length bodies include the Care Quality Commission, NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Staff will then check this over with the department’s EU Exit policy team, before it gets cleared via the head of EU exit communications and ministerial private office.

Communications that require clearance by ministers must be sent before midday.

And anything that needs approval by the DExEU should allow two days. 

A DHSC spokesman claimed it is responsible for ensuring the NHS is prepared for Brexit, which includes only issuing accurate and timely information. 

Clearing messages before they are released is standard procedure, the spokesperson added. 

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