Community Pharmacy, the UK-EU Trade deal and the end of the Transition Period

Community Pharmacy, the UK-EU Trade deal and the end of the Transition Period

December 31, 2020

Yesterday, Health Minister Edward Argar MP wrote to health and social care colleagues to provide an update on the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, a free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and quotas and covering trade worth £668 billion in 2019.

The Minister emphasises that although the Agreement is ‘excellent news’ for the health and care system, there will still be changes when the UK leaves the Single Market and Customs Union and the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) preparations for the end of the Transition Period on 31st December 2020 remain important.

The letter includes information on medicines continuity of supply, reciprocal healthcare, health security and science, data and professional qualifications, and the Minister thanks every single person working in the sector for their dedication to the unprecedented challenges of 2020.

The letter is available to read in full here, but we have summarised the key points below.

Continuity of Supply

A reminder of DHSC’s multi-layered contingency planning, including buffer stocks, rerouting and air freight, as necessary. For more information see the Government advice.

Patient concerns

There is encouragement to have the confidence to say that the Government has plans in place to ensure a continued supply of medical goods and patients may continue to order their prescriptions as normal. See the joint statement by the BMA and PSNC.


COVID-19 PPE should continue to be ordered from the PPE portal and allow more time for such non-clinical goods to arrive – an extra 72 hours where you rely on just in time supply chains. See the PSNC information on PPE.

Reciprocal Healthcare

UK residents will continue to have access to emergency and necessary healthcare when they travel to the EU, operating like the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme, from 1st January 2021. The current EHIC cards will remain valid until their expiry date (and for those travelling to the UK) and a new UK Global Health Insurance Card will be available in the New Year.


The agreement provides for the continued free flow of personal data from the EU and EEA European Free Trade Association (EFTA) to the UK until adequacy decisions are adopted, and for no longer than 6 months; and the UK has deemed the EU and EEA EFTA Member States to be adequate to allow for data flows from the UK.

Professional recognition

There is a two year standstill agreement, after which regulators such as the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) may reach Mutual Recognition Agreements or use their existing third country recognition registration procedures. (More information is available here.) The GPhC states that until December 2022, EEA qualified pharmacists have a simplified registration procedure, but not pharmacy technicians. For more information see the GPhC website.

Further information

The latest information on the end of the Brexit Transition period and medicines supply can be found in PSNC’s Brexit Hub.

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