Brexit: Health Secretary letter to healthcare professionals

Brexit: Health Secretary letter to healthcare professionals

December 7, 2018

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has today (December 7th) written a series of letters, including one to healthcare professionals, to give an update on the Government’s planning for a no-deal Brexit.

In his letter to frontline healthcare providers Mr Hancock once again stressed that healthcare providers should not stockpile medicines. He said they should advise their patients against stockpiling medicines as well.

Mr Hancock uses the letter to set out the Government’s revised planning assumptions for a worst-case scenario no-deal Brexit.  In this scenario there will be significantly reduced access through the channel ports at Dover and Folkestone for up to six months.

Given these changed border assumptions, the Government is working to supplement the six-week stockpile of medicines it has asked manufacturers to hold with additional actions.

These include:

  • Working to ensure that there is sufficient roll-on, roll-off freight capacity to enable these vital products to continue to move freely in to the UK;
  • Agreeing that medicines and medical products will be prioritised on these alternative routes to ensure that the flow of all these products will continue unimpeded after 29 March 2019. This includes all medicines, including general sales list medicines.
  • Other measures, including arrangements for the air freight of medicines with a short shelf life, such as medical radioisotopes.

Although not mentioned in the letter, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is also currently consulting with community pharmacy organisations on a number of possible measures to help safeguard the supply of medicines to patients who need them in the event of shortages after Brexit.

These could include the introduction of a national ‘serious shortage protocol’ to provide dispensers with more flexibility in case of serious shortages of POMs, and the ability for community pharmacists to make substitutions in certain situations, both generic and therapeutic substitutions.

PSNC will continue to work with DHSC on these measures, and also to minimise the impact of any medicines price increases that could arise if shortages occur after Brexit, and to ensure that pharmacies have financial protection from these.

Read more about the community pharmacy measures and PSNC’s work in our update

Read the Secretary of State’s letter to frontline healthcare professionals

Advice to pharmacies and patients

In the letter to frontline healthcare professionals, Mr Hancock stressed the need to avoid local stockpiling.

“UK health and social care providers – including hospitals, care homes, GPs and community pharmacies – should not stockpile additional medicines beyond their business as usual stock levels. There is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions,” he wrote.

Local stockpiling is unnecessary and could cause shortages in other areas, which would put patient care at risk, Mr Hancock continued. And he said any incidences involving the overordering of medicines would be investigated and followed up with the relevant Chief or Responsible Pharmacist directly.

The letter stated: “If asked, clinicians should advise patients that the Government is working with industry to ensure a continued supply of medicines from the moment we leave the EU; patients should not store additional medicines at home.”

Working with manufacturers and EU Member States

As a result of revised planning assumptions, the Government is working to ensure that goods can continue to flow into the country and won’t be delayed by additional checks and controls.

This work is ‘proceeding well’ on the UK side, Mr Hancock wrote, and the Government is working with EU Member States to ensure that they too take a pragmatic approach to arrangements from their sides of the border.

“Although we cannot know exactly what each member state will do with respect to checks on the EU border, the cross-Government planning assumptions have been revised so we can prepare for the potential impacts that the imposition of third country controls by member states could have,” Mr Hancock wrote.

The Government is also continuing to work with medicines manufacturers and Mr Hancock said he was extremely pleased by the response from pharmaceutical companies so far following his request for them to stockpile six weeks worth of medicines in the UK.


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