If you get broken in some way, your friendly local NHS human engineer will sometimes require some spare parts in order to bring you back to factory condition. The procedure might involve topping up your blood levels or perhaps swapping out an organ for a second hand one that is in better condition. I am, as you may have guessed by now, not an expert on the finer details of this topic. Spare parts for humans don’t keep well, very limited shelf life, so they have to be delivered fresh from the source. As the supply of second hand parts in good condition is fairly limited, it is best to have a wide area from which suitable parts can be sourced.
We have rules for the transport and use of spare human bits, this is an activity regulated by the Human Tissue Authority. It isn’t obvious that our current EEA catchment area for spare parts is going to work well for us after Brexit. Not least as it applies to ambulances crossing the land border with Ireland if they have blood on board.
I wrote to my MP about this, who was at the time the health secretary, so it happened to be his thing:
Monday 12 March 2018
Dear Jeremy Hunt,
You will note that the Human Tissue Authority currently has rules on the import and export of human organs and other tissue
When do you plan to start the consultation on what our post-Brexit policy should be on import and export of human tissue, and when do you plan to bring forward legislative proposals to implement the new policy. I am sure you understand that our current policy is not one that a non member of the EEA can operate.
The first thing that happened after I sent that was that they took down the FAQ! Luckily the internet has a way of remembering things so you can still read it: https://web.archive.org/web/20170714163823/https://www.hta.gov.uk/faqs/distribution-and-import-export-faqs
There are a lot of rules that reference the EEA. Other members of the EEA will have the exact same set of rules as us, and you could go to 27 equivalents of our HTA and read their rules in a variety of languages. They will all be roughly the same. When Brexit happens, we will not be in the EEA. When Brexit happens the other EEA member states will not treat us as if we are in the EEA because we will not be. We will be a third country, and to us they will be a third country. This means that our policy would be very odd if it gave preference to EEA spare parts over spare parts from other regions, and the policy of the member states will not change. We are changing and that has consequences. Some time later I got a reply from the Department of Health:
Thank you for your email, which was sent to my Private Office at the Department of Health. I received the attached response from Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities.
So a bit of a non-answer and not addressing any of the specific issues that we will face when we are not an EEA member and our policy is intrinsically linked to our membership of the EEA.
Now that they are talking about stockpiling blood and tissue this is becoming an issue, as noticed by Faisal Islam (who urgently needs charging).
Yes – under EU law “substances of human origin” refers mainly to blood and also tissues and organs… so the Health Secretary is referring to the need for blood stockpiles in event of No Deal Brexit pic.twitter.com/05OgYrwvNp
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) July 24, 2018