Ministers draw up £25m plan to airlift medicines into Britain under a no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
15th August 2019

Health ministers have drawn up plans to airlift emergency medicines into Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Doctors' union the BMA said the contract heralded the 'chaos that will lie in store for the NHS' under a no-deal Brexit.

The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a hunt for a company that can run a £25m "express freight service" contract in a bid to ensure "continuity of supply" of life-saving medicines after 31 October.

Unveiling the plan, health minister Chris Skidmore said: "I want to ensure that when we leave the EU at the end of October, all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure frontline services are fully prepared.

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"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."

Chris Wormald, the top official at the Department for Health, told MPs last year that approximately two-thirds of all medicines used in the UK either come from the European Union or are transported via the EU.

Amid fears that key supply chains could face disruption if tariffs are ramped up under a no-deal Brexit, doctors' union the BMA said it was "beyond alarming" that a supplier had still not been appointed for the job.

The BMA's deputy chair David Wrigley told the Financial Times: "This latest announcement from the government is a further indication of the chaos that will lie in store for the NHS and patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit and highlights just how costly this will be."

He added: "A no-deal Brexit could lead to untold disruption for health services... The inability to supply critical medication will place patients’ lives at risk."

The move comes after Chancellor Sajid Javid announced that an extra £2bn would be pumped into departments in a bid to ramp up Whitehall's preparations for Britain leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October. 

The Department of Health said £434 of that would be used to try and avoid disruption to medical supply chains "through freight capacity, warehousing and stockpiling".