Chief medical officer warns 'there may be deaths' from no-deal Brexit shortages

Posted On: 
10th October 2019

People may die from a shortage in medicines if Britain crashes out of the European Union without an agreement, England’s chief medical officer has warned.

Dame Sally Davies warned that patients were "at risk" from a shortage of medicines
Credit: 
PA Images

Professor Dame Sally Davies, who is the Government’s outgoing top adviser on health matters, said that ministers could not guarantee that lives would not be lost due to a lack of resources.

She told the BBC's Today programme: “The health service and everyone has worked very hard to prepare but I say what I’ve said before: We cannot guarantee that there will not be shortages, not only of medicines but technology and gadgets and things and there may be deaths, we cannot guarantee that there won’t."

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When asked directly if patients are at risk, she responded: "They are at risk".

The stark warning comes as Boris Johnson prepares to meet  Leo Varadkar for make-or-break talks in northern England ahead of the 31 October deadline.

The Taoiseach has said that reaching an agreement with the UK on time will be “very difficult”.

Under the terms of the Benn Act passed by MPs last month, the Prime Minister is obliged to ask for a further delay to Brexit if a deal is not reached by 19 October.

However Downing Street has repeatedly insisted that while it will obey the law, it will not ask for an extension to Article 50 beyond Halloween.

Dame Sally's intervention comes a month after documents on the Government's own planning for a no-deal scenario revealed that food and medicines could be in shortage.

According to files from Operation Yellowhammer, which MPs forced ministers to release, there could be "significant disruption lasting up to six months" of medicines coming into the UK.

"Whilst some products can be stockpiled, others cannot due to short shelf lives - it will also not be practical to stockpile products to cover expected delays of up to six months," the document said.