Significant work still needs to be done to minimise the impact of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit on medicines supply to health and social care providers, a major new report has found.
While acknowledging the government has done an “enormous amount” to manage risk, the National Audit Office (NAO) report said significant work remained to be done.
According to Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) estimates, more than half the 12,300 medicines used in the UK come from or via the EU (7,000).
The government’s “reasonable worst case” scenario predicts the flow of goods across the Channel could be slashed by 40-60% on day one of a no-deal Brexit.
The NAO details DHSC measures to minimise supplies disruption while highlighting areas where more needs to be done.
It notes that while the government has encouraged medicines suppliers to build up supplies it has incomplete information about the level of stockpiles in place.
The DHSC has created a six-week stockpile of equipment and supplies such as gloves and syringes that was 88% complete as of September 20.
Supplies of goods other than medicines for social care have not been similarly stockpiled, the NAO warned.
While nursing homes have been warned to prepare for the impact of a no-deal Brexit, the NAO said the DHSC had little information on how much work they had done.
The NAO notes measures taken by the government to re-route supplies but warned that working towards the current October 31 deadline offered “extremely limited” time to have full measures in place.
Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the cross-party Public Accounts Committee, told the BBC the report was “deeply concerning”, a view that was echoed by Dr Layla McCay of the NHS Confederation.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want to reassure patients we are doing everything necessary to make sure they can access the medicines they need after Brexit on 31 October, whatever the circumstances.
“As the NAO recognises, the Department of Health and Social Care, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers have mounted an unprecedented response in preparing for Brexit, with substantial stockpiles of medicines, which are increasing by the day. Combined with other measures, including new transport routes coming online shortly, we can help ensure patients continue to receive the highest quality of care in the same way they do now.”