As we approach 31 October we appear, once more, to be lurching towards ‘no deal’. Does this still pose problems for medical supplies? The answer, worryingly, is ‘yes’.
The Government’s “Operation Yellowhammer” report highlighted 12 areas of risk, which includes the supply of medicines.
With 75% of medicines coming through the Dover–Eurotunnel route – where disruption is expected to last as long as six months after a no deal Brexit - the supply of medicines are particularly vulnerable if commercial trade routes are blocked or face major delays.
The Government says that they are securing additional freight capacity to ensure medicines can come in to the UK. However remember when Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, faced huge criticism for the £13.8m deal with Seaborne Freight, which was found to have never run a ferry service.
The National Audit Office (NAO) says that, while there has been a great deal of work done to prepare for a no deal Brexit, there remains a “significant amount to do” before 31 October. They also revealed only a quarter of medicines suppliers had found alternative routes to the Dover/Calais crossing.
Stockpiling medicines has been mooted but many medicines won’t last the full six months of expected delays. Furthermore, 28% of medicine product lines do not have even a six-week stockpile of medicines in preparation for a no-deal Brexit, according to figures given to the NAO by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Nick Coates, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, said
“Many residents of North East Somerset rely on life saving medicines and it is frankly unacceptable that the government would play political games with the European Union when there are lives at stake. While Jacob Rees-Mogg seemingly supports this gamble from his position in the cabinet, I am directly opposed to crashing out of the EU without a deal.
“We must avoid a potentially hazardous lack of medicine for those who desperately need it. In the nursing care home where I am a trustee we are most worried about drugs for residents with alzheimers. We exist to provide the best care for elderly people not to worry them and their family about the lack of medicines.
“The wellbeing of everyone who lives in North East Somerset is my highest priority and will continue to be when I represent the constituency as the next Member of Parliament.”
Ultimately, nobody really knows what will happen next. While pharmacists scrabble to put in place procedures that will help in the event of shortages, such as speaking to local surgeries and pharmacies about sharing stock, it’s clear they have very little control over the situation.