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19.02.18

Wollaston: Brexit medicines contingency plan should be subject to public scrutiny

The chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, has written to Jeremy Hunt to stress the need for clarity on details of the government’s contingency planning to protect patients following Brexit.

In her letter to the health and social care secretary, Wollaston explains that during the committee’s inquiry into the impact of leaving the EU on life sciences, it heard “compelling evidence” for the industry, patient groups and health professionals setting out the need for certainty.

She argues that patient care across the UK and Europe is at risk of being compromised in the event of a “disorderly Brexit,” and that businesses and services need to plan for all outcomes to avoid any disruption to the supply of medical products, but warns that many businesses, including those manufacturing and distributing medicines, are still “in the dark.”

Wollaston adds that if the announcement and details of a transition period are delayed beyond March 2018, more businesses will be forced to invest money in contingency plans at the expense of patient care funding.

She warns that despite the mutual interest in a “deep and special partnership” with the EU and the European Medicines Agency after Brexit, failure to reach an agreement on other sectors of the economy could jeopardise an agreement on medicines, devices and substances of human origin, putting patient care at risk.

The health committee has called on the government and the European Commission to agree a joint public statement setting out how both sides will protect the interests of patients in the event of no deal being made, which Wollaston says would allay fears of a disorderly exit.

In January, Hunt told the committee that the government’s contingency planning would not be made public, but in her letter Wollaston says that the committee believes public scrutiny would strengthen the UK’s negotiating position by demonstrating a “credible fall-back position,” as well as ensuring that all relevant aspects are covered to guarantee the health of UK patients regardless of the Brexit outcome.

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