Brexit: DHSC plans for end of Transition Period

Brexit: DHSC plans for end of Transition Period

August 4, 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has clarified its plans for the continuity of supply of medicines and medical goods after the end of the Brexit Transition Period.

In a letter to suppliers of medicines and medicinal products, DHSC’s Chief Commercial Officer Steve Oldfield set out the Government’s preparations alongside its expectations of the industry in the run up to 31st December 2020. This includes requests to aim to hold six weeks’ worth of stock in the UK and to urgently review their own contingency plans for the possibility of a worst-case scenario.

In preparation for leaving the EU (prior to the start of the Transition Period), DHSC developed a multi-layered approach for protecting the supply of medicines and medical goods. These measures have been revisited for the end of the Transition Period, and adapted where necessary.

The full DHSC letter can be read here, but we have summarised the information provided below.

  1. Re-routing away from the short straits

Supply companies have been encouraged to review their own logistics arrangements for avoiding the key pressure points of Dover and Folkestone to bring goods in the UK, whilst DHSC has retained the express freight service and freight capacity framework previously put in place.

  1. Supporting ‘trader readiness’ for the new customs and border arrangements

The Government will keep communication channels with suppliers open to raise awareness of the relevant information and identify where help may be needed.

  1. Buffer stocks of medical suppliers where possible

Supply companies are encouraged to stockpile a target level of six weeks’ stock on UK soil, whilst DHSC has pledged to do the same for fast-moving medical devices and clinical consumables.

  1. Warehousing

Previously, the Government had secured dedicated warehouse capacity to help with additional stockholding but, due to low utilisation last time around, won’t be doing so at this time. This will, however, be kept under review.

  1. Regulatory flexibility

DHSC has taken onboard industry requests to minimise trade barriers and bolster resilience of medicine supply chains from 1st January 2021, but final negotiations are still ongoing with the EU. Further information is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

  1. Shortage management response

Suppliers are reminded of their duty to provide early notification of supply disruptions to DHSC, which has a Medicine Supply Team with well-established procedures in dealing with medicine shortages. The National Supply Disruption Response (NSDR), which is currently assisting with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on medicines supply, will also be made available to support DHSC with any fallout from the end of the Transition Period. At present, supply issues not related to COVID-19 should be raised through business as usual routes. This includes appropriate reports to PSNC, such as those relating to concession prices.

DHSC has also indicated that it will continue to ask healthcare providers to avoid local stockpiling over and above business as usual ahead of 31st December as it is unnecessary and could cause shortages in other areas. This includes advising patients that they do not need to stockpile medicines either.

Update 14th August

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has updated this letter. The amendments do not reflect changes in any of DHSC’s plans, but rather adds mention of the Reasonable Worst Case Scenario (RWCS) that Government is using. This includes a risk of significant disruption across the short straits for 6 months following the end of the transition period, with a particular risk during the first 3 months.

To combat this, suppliers are encouraged to review their own logistics arrangements and consider the appropriateness of using existing supply chain routes during this period. From the Government side, a 4-year procurement framework for freight capacity for ‘Category 1’ goods, which includes all health supplies, was initiated in 2019 and remains in place. DHSC has also retained its express freight service arrangements to support the urgent movement of medicines and medical products if other measures experience difficulties.

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