Express freight service medicines plan for Brexit

Doctors warn lack of preparation ‘beyond alarming’ as UK Government announces contract for delivery of medical supplies

Thursday 15th August 2019

A £25m “express freight service” is being set up to help ensure urgent medicines will be delivered after Brexit, the UK Government has announced.

The service, which will be available to the whole of the UK, is intended to deliver small parcels of medicines or medicinal products within 24 hours.

It will also provide for moving larger quantities of supplies on a two to four day basis.

The Department of Health and Social Care is seeking potential bidders for the £25m contract, with the results expected to be announced in September.

Concerns have been raised that a no-deal Brexit could lead to supply chain breakdowns stopping essential medicines and products getting to people.

David Wrigley, deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), says it is “beyond alarming” that future medical supplies could be dependent on a freight service for which the supplier had not yet been appointed.

He said: “This latest announcement from the Government is a further indication of the chaos that will lay in store for the NHS and patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit and highlights just how costly this will be.

 “A no-deal Brexit could lead to untold disruption for health services and severely impact patients’ health if they either don’t get the medicines they are totally dependent on or those medicines arrive damaged, unfit for purpose or just too late.

“The inability to supply critical medication will place patients’ lives at risk.” 

The UK Government said the taxpayer would be liable for up to around £4m of the total value of the freight service contract, but added ‘it is expected to be much less than this’.

The service is in addition to other plans in place including building ‘buffer stocks’ of medicines and medical products and changing regulatory requirements so companies can continue to sell in the UK in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Work to procure additional warehouse capacity and ‘strengthen the process and resources used to deal with shortages’ is also being undertaken.

Health Minister Chris Skidmore says he wants to ensure that “all appropriate steps have been taken” to ensure frontline services are fully prepared for Brexit.

He said: “That’s why we are stepping up preparations and strengthening our already extremely resilient contingency plans.

“This express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU.”