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Health Secretary Matt Hancock reassures that Government are “taking all appropriate steps” to ensure continuation of medication supplies

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17 September 2019

The Department of Health and Social Care has reassured those living with epilepsy that they are doing "everything they can" to ensure the continuation of medicines supply after the UK leaves the EU. Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, writes for the Epilepsy Society blog.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Since the public voted to leave the European Union more than three years ago, there has been endless speculation in the media and online about what this means for the NHS.

In the past fortnight alone, I’ve read a series of misleading articles about shortages of medicines and this has understandably caused concern for patients and their families.

I recognise how difficult managing epilepsy can be and therefore how important it is that you, your friends and family don’t have the additional burden of worrying about how and when you will get the medicines you need.

The reality is that medicine shortages happen across the world for a number of reasons - from manufacturing problems to a lack of raw ingredients. Whenever shortages do occur we have well-established procedures to deal with them, from whatever cause, working closely with MHRA, manufacturers, NHS England and others to minimise any risk to patients. Despite anecdotal claims the facts are that we have no evidence to suggest any have been linked to Brexit.

I want to take this opportunity to reassure you the Government is taking all appropriate steps to prepare to leave the EU on 31 October and our plans should help ensure the supply of medicines remain uninterrupted – meaning you’ll continue to receive the medicine you need to manage your condition.

We have been working closely with suppliers to monitor over 300 different epilepsy medicines provided by almost 50 companies and we are pleased to see many are holding stockpiles far beyond the six weeks’ addition buffer we requested.

This is just one part of our thorough, multi-layered approach to minimise the risk of disruption to medicine supply, which includes:

  • supporting suppliers to secure alternative routes for medicines and medical products to continue to come into the UK;
  • buffer stocks and stockpiling, where this is practical, or asking industry or the NHS Supply Chain to build up buffer stocks in the UK ahead of the exit day;
  • strengthening further our already-robust process and resources used to deal with shortages;
  • procuring additional warehouse capacity to store medicines and medical products;
  • changing or clarifying regulatory requirements so companies can continue to sell their products in the UK;
  • supporting companies to improve the readiness of their logistics and supply chains. This is so that they can meet the new customs and border requirements for both import and export.

The Department is also procuring an express freight service to bring medicines and medical products into the UK within 24 to 72 hours if needed after we leave the EU.

But our efforts don’t stop there. On 1 August, the Government announced an additional £434 million would be provided to further support the continuity of supply of vital medicines and medical products. This will help us to get the right support where it is needed most.

The Government now has a renewed focus on negotiating a deal with the EU, which we will seek to do over the coming weeks. But it is our duty as a responsible government to plan for every eventuality, which is why we’re working tirelessly on this extensive planning with the NHS, industry and our partners across the health and care system.

I understand the concerns of those who require epilepsy medications in their daily lives. I want to alleviate any fears by stressing that I, the Department and the Government are doing everything we can to make sure you receive the medicines you need when we leave the EU.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Epilepsy Society.