UK seeks contractor to secure post-Brexit medicines supplies

Out-Law News | 15 Aug 2019 | 1:03 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government has stepped up its move to secure the supply of medicines to patients in the UK in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit by formally seeking a freight contractor that can deliver medicines and medical products into the country in a matter of hours.

The provider of the "express freight service" must be able to "deliver small parcels of medicines or medical products on a 24-hour basis, with additional provision to move larger pallet quantities on a two- to four-day basis" across the whole of the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care. The department confirmed it has opened a formal procurement, with a deadline of 21 August for prospective suppliers to bid for the contract.

The winner of the £25 million year-long contract, which could be extended by a further 12 months, is expected to be announced in September.

Health minister Chris Skidmore said: "I want to ensure that when we leave the EU at the end of October, all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure frontline services are fully prepared. That’s why we are stepping up preparations and strengthening our already extremely resilient contingency plans. This express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU."

Helen Cline, an expert in life sciences at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said businesses across the life sciences sector have already taken their own steps to ensure continuity of supply post-Brexit.

"Industry's primary concern around a no deal Brexit is patient safety and public health in particular continuity of supply of medicines to patients in the 27 remaining EU member states and the UK," Cline said. "Unlike other sectors, the concerns of the life sciences and healthcare industries are not just economic. The scale of the industry concerns should not be underestimated. It is estimated that around 45 million medicine packs per month cross from the UK to the EU and 37 million in the other direction."

"Companies' contingency planning has included looking at what changes are needed to supply chains, regulatory processes and contractual data transfer provisions to ensure continuity of supply of vital medicines to patients," she said.