To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the memorandum of Dr David Rosser of University Hospitals Birmingham published on 30th January 2019, what steps his Department is taking to ensure adequate distribution of NHS medicines in the event that the UK leaves the EU (a) with a Withdrawal Agreement and (b) without a deal.
Subject to the Withdrawal Agreement being agreed by Parliament, the two-year Implementation Period will begin on exit day. During the Implementation Period, the United Kingdom would the UK would no longer be a Member State of the European Union, but market access for goods, including medicines, would continue on current terms.
During the Implementation Period, it will be the Government’s top priority to negotiate a future economic partnership between the UK and the EU. In the Government’s White Paper we committed to securing the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods between the UK and the EU and to agree on healthcare arrangements.
Whilst a negotiated deal remains the preferred outcome, it is appropriate that preparations are made for all scenarios. The Government has been accelerating preparations that assure the continuity of supply of National Health Service medicines in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
In August 2018, the Department wrote to all pharmaceutical companies that supply prescription-only and pharmacy medicines to the UK that come from, or via, the EU/European Economic Area (EEA) asking them to ensure a minimum of six weeks additional supply in the UK, over and above existing business-as-usual buffer stocks, by 29 March 2019. We recognise, however, that certain medicines cannot be reasonably stockpiled. Where these medicines are imported from the EU or EEA, we have asked that suppliers ensure in advance plans to air freight these medicines from the EU in the event of a ‘no deal’ exit.
We are working to ensure we have sufficient roll-on, roll-off freight capacity on alternative routes to enable these vital products to continue to move freely in to the UK. Medicines and other medical products will be prioritised on these routes to ensure that the flow of all these products will continue unimpeded after 29 March 2019.
Throughout enacting our plans, we have received very good engagement from industry who share our aims of ensuring that the continuity of supply of medicines and medical products for patients is maintained and able to cope with any potential delays at the border that may arise in the short term in the event of a ‘no deal’ EU exit.