NHS England is in the process of establishing a special unit to deal with the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union to ensure “a smooth transition and protect the NHS”.

Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, said at an NHS board meeting this morning that the NHS Brexit unit would “make sure, as the negotiations of Brexit take shape, the NHS’s interests are properly represented there”.

He added that key areas to look at include medicines licensing, life sciences research, public health policy and the position of EU immigrants who work for the NHS.

Stevens warned before the referendum that a financial downturn if the UK left the EU would make the financial situation of the NHS worse.

In his latest appearance before the Health Select Committee, however, he said that his attitude to the UK’s decision to leave was “when there’s lemon, make lemonade” and that the removal of EU legislation on areas such as medicines could carry benefits for the NHS.

However, he called for EU nationals working in the NHS to be guaranteed indefinite permission to stay.

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, also said in NHE before the referendum that leaving the EU could harm Britain’s pharmaceutical industry.