UK moves to secure 'no deal' Brexit medical supplies

Out-Law News | 26 Feb 2019 | 12:17 pm | 1 min. read

A 'no deal' Brexit should not cause disruption to medical supplies in the UK "if everyone ... does what they need to do", the UK government has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said around 75% of the medicines and over 50% of the clinical consumables the UK uses come from or via the EU. It said potential disruption to the flow of traffic to and from the ports of Calais in France and Dover and Folkestone in the south of England represent "the main risk to supply" in a 'no deal' scenario.

A range of measures have already been taken to "minimise any supply disruption", and the DHSC said a continued effort from stakeholders can ensure there is not interruption should the UK leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement to smooth the exit on 29 March.

"While we never give guarantees, we are confident that, if everyone – including suppliers, freight companies, our international partners, and the health and care system – does what they need to do, the supply of medicines and medical products should be uninterrupted in the event of exiting the EU without a deal," DHSC said.

In preparing for a 'no deal' scenario, the government said it has arranged for ports other than Dover and Folkestone to accept goods being imported into the UK after Brexit, and that industry has also been asked to "build up buffer stocks in the UK before 29 March". It also said it has bought extra warehouse space to hold additional stock and that space on aeroplanes had also been booked to enable "products that require an immediate shipment due to short shelf-life or specific storage conditions" to be brought into the UK.

Further regulatory changes and clarifications have also been made to enable companies to "continue to sell their products in the UK even if we have no deal", while processes and resources used to deal with shortages in the event that they do occur have also been strengthened, it said.

"A combination of securing freight, buffer stocks, stockpiling and warehousing, and regulatory flexibility will be required help to ensure the continuation of medical supplies," the government said. "By securing additional freight capacity to ensure a continued flow of products, stockpiling and providing warehouse storage capacity as a further contingency, and removing regulatory barriers, medicines and medical products should continue to be available for the NHS, other healthcare providers and the public in the event of a no-deal EU exit."

The DHSC said "local stockpiling" by patients is "unnecessary" and that it "could cause shortages in other areas, which could put patient care at risk".

"It is important that patients order their repeat prescriptions as normal and keep taking their medicines as normal," the department said.