In a written update on plans for the continuity of medicines and medical products in the event of a no-deal Brexit, health minister Stephen Hammond said it was ‘important that patients order their repeat prescriptions as normal and keep taking their medicines as normal’ despite ‘current issues’ with supplies.
He added that local stockpiling was ‘unnecessary’ and could cause shortages in other areas - potentially putting patient care ‘at risk’.
Mr Hammond’s update came after GPonline revealed that 87% of GPs had had seen a rise in medicines they prescribe becoming unavailable in the past year - resulting in more than half ‘often’ having to prescribe second-choice drugs for patients.
One in seven GPs taking part in the survey had seen patients negatively impacted as a result of being prescribed a second-choice drug - including cases of actual harm and increased recovery time.
One survey respondent wrote: ‘With the upcoming unknown regarding Brexit and how this will affect access to medicines, patients are becoming increasingly anxious. It would be nice if the government would just get on with it and move on to making progress within the NHS, by focusing on national policy. Having a definitive plan in place will allow us to make contingency plans to ensure patients have access to the medicines they need.’
Mr Hammond insisted that ‘there is no hard evidence to date to suggest current issues are increasing as a result of EU Exit’.
Outlining the DHSC’s contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit, Mr Hammond said: ‘My department has been working closely with trade bodies, product suppliers, the health and care system in England, the devolved administrations and the crown dependencies, to ensure the continuation of the supply of medicines and medical products to the whole of the UK in the event of a no deal EU Exit.’
Government plans include:
- Extra 'roll-on, roll-off freight capacity’ away from Dover and Folkestone for goods to continue to come into the UK from 29 March.
- Buying extra warehouse space to hold additional stock.
- Booking space on aeroplanes for products that require an immediate shipment due to short shelf-life or specific storage conditions.
- Making changes to, or clarifications of, regulatory requirements so companies can continue to sell their products in the UK.
- Strengthening processes and resources to deal with medicine shortages - including the introduction of ‘serious shortage protocols’ that allow pharmacists to alter patients' prescriptions without their GP's permission.