Health Secretary warns drug firms to stockpile for six-month disruption under no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
8th December 2018

A no-deal Brexit could lead to six months of chaos at UK borders affecting critical medical supplies, according to a letter from Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The Health Secretary warned of disruption at the UK border.

The Cabinet minister has written to pharmaceutical firms asking them to prepare for Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

He said: "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.

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"These impacts are likely to be felt mostly on the short straits crossings into Dover and Folkestone, where the frequent and closed loop nature of these mean that both exports and imports would be affected.” 

“The revised cross-Government planning assumptions show that there will be significantly reduced access across the short straits, for up to six months."

But Tory Brexiter Andrew Bridgen dismissed the warnings, telling the BBC that it was "Project Fear on steroids".

He said: "It's the last throw of the dice from the prime minister who is desperate to get MPs to vote for her withdrawal agreement."

The letter was published after documents leaked to the Times revealed that ministers could order pharmacists to adjust patients’ prescriptions without contacting their GP to try and avoid extreme shortages in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The Government would reportedly use controversial 'Henry VIII'-powers so that ministers could enact a “serious shortage protocol”.

The leaked document said that the plans “could be issued in case of a serious national shortage and would enable community pharmacists and other dispensers to dispense in accordance with the protocol rather than the prescription without contacting the GP”.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “The BMA believes that Brexit will have a severe impact on the supply of medicines and the overall delivery of healthcare in the UK and we should have far more time to adequately consider the Government’s proposals for change.”

Labour described the move as an “astonishing power grab”.