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12 September 2019

DHSC says robust plans in place to prevent disruption to medicines supplies documented in Operation Yellowhammer

The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSC) has assured us they are doing everything they can to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medicines following Brexit on 31 October.

The reassurance comes after the publication yesterday of the Government's Operation Yellowhammer document outlining actions taken by its different departments in preparation for Brexit.

The six-page document looks at a series of "reasonable worst case scenarios" for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, including the impact of delays at the short Channel Straits on the supply of vital medicines to the UK.

Three quarters of UK medicines come via the short straits and must meet tight regulations including transport under temperature controlled conditions and within a limited time frame.

Appropriate steps for Brexit

The DHSC told us: “We want to reassure the public that we are working closely with partners across the health and care system and industry to take all appropriate steps to prepare for Brexit on 31 October, whatever the circumstances. Our robust plans should help ensure the supply of medicines and medical products remains uninterrupted.”

Over the last year we have been working closely with the DHSC to make certain that appropriate plans are in place tohelp ensure a continuity of medicines supply if the UK leaves without a deal.

We have stressed the importance of people with epilepsy being able to access their medication on a regular basis, as prescribed. And we have emphasised the impact of a break-through seizure on a person's life, if they do not receive their correct medication.

Multi-layered plan

We have been informed by the DHSC that a multi-layered plan is in place to ensure the least disruption to transport of medicines to and from the UK.

This includes:

  • securing extra freight capacity on goods coming into the UK
  • building up a buffer of stock and stockpiling
  • buying extra warehouse space for additional stock
  • booking space on aeroplanes for products with a short shelf life or specific storage conditions
  • making changes to regulatory requirements so companies can continue to sell products in the UK
  • An express freight service to transport small medical supplies into the UK on a 24 hour basis. This will be a response to any urgent need or where a supplier's own plans experience disruption
  • Additional 'roll-on, roll-off' freight capacity to support plans by suppliers to re-route their supply chains  will prioritise medicines and medical products.

Along with other charities and organisations, we meet with the DHSC and their medicines supply team on a regular basis, to discuss progress and concerns about exiting the European Union, and particularly, leaving without a deal.

We are also in contact with manufacturers of epilepsy medications to find out more about their individual contingency plans for Brexit. You can read these here and they are updated on a daily basis.

Social care

The DHSC has also spelled out its commitment to ensuring that people receive the same high levels of social care post-Brexit and that reciprocal healthcare arrangements continue between the UK and EU nationals.

They said: "Our priority is to make sure people continue to receive the highest standards of care... when we leave the EU on 31st October, whatever the circumstances. ... We want EU social care workers to stay and we would encourage them to join the one million people already granted status through the EU Settlement Scheme.  Our new immigration system will ensure our health and care sector has the skilled staff it needs to provide the excellent care patients deserve.  

Reciprocal healthcare

“Our priority is to secure the continuation of reciprocal healthcare arrangements, so UK and EU nationals have access to medical treatment in the same way they do now. We have already made an offer to all EU member states and EFTA states to maintain this arrangement for a transitional period that lasts until 31 December 2020 in a no deal scenario. A number of member states have already prepared legislation that will protect the healthcare rights of UK nationals travelling and living in-country.”

More information

How to cope if there is a shortage of your medication