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25.07.18

The government is going to ‘stockpile’ drugs in case of a no deal Brexit, Hancock says

The Department of Health and Social Care will stockpile on vital medicines to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU from creating supply shortages.

Matt Hancock told MPs and the Health Select Committee yesterday that the government is assessing the required amounts of different medicines should Brexit heavily impact importing prices of important drugs, but added he was “confident” the UK will not leave negotiations without a deal.

His comments come after new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said the government will ensure “adequate” food supply to Brits if there is no deal by the time the UK leaves the EU on 29 March next year.

Hancock said: “There is work to do to ensure the NHS is ready for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. We are seeking to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but departmental preparations are accelerating to ensure people’s health needs are provided in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“The department is working up options with industry for stockpiling medicines, medical devices and substances of human origin in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Obviously, there will be a cost for this."

The new health secretary noted that some medicines with a short shelf-life will have to be “flown in” if transportation of other means are time consuming.

He continued: “This is exactly the type of contingency planning you would expect us to be doing. You can imagine that it is incredibly important for me, as Secretary of State, to ensure that people will have access to the medicines that they need.

“It is vital that we get the preparations right, but I am also confident that with the right amount of work, we can mitigate the worst of the circumstances.”

The chain of medical supplies, vaccines, medical devices, clinical consumables, and blood products were amongst the areas identified by Hancock to be stockpiled in case of a no deal.

Labour's shadow health minister Justin Madders said: "We need a Brexit deal which puts patients first, but now we know that the NHS is having to stockpile medicines because of this government's chaotic handling of Brexit.

"This is the terrifying reality of this government's failure to prioritise the NHS in the Brexit negotiations."

MPs have been calling for greater security of the UK’s medicines following Brexit for months: in May, a report released by the Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS) claimed that leaving the EU without a deal would leave Britain as a “second-tier state”.

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Image credit: zorazhuang, iStock images

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