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No-deal Brexit could close down practices, says RCGP chair

The non-pharmaceutical supply chain post-Brexit must be addressed by the Government or it could risk the closure of practices 'up and down the country', according to the RCGP chair.

Speaking at the Labour party conference fringe meeting on NHS in a post-Brexit world, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard voiced her concerns about the supply chain of basic non-medical supplies in general practice. 

She said in her practice in the Midlands, she worries about products such as printer paper running out, which could lead to surgery closures and asked the panel for answers.

She said: 'My challenge and question to the panel is not about pharmaceuticals, it's about the non-pharmaceuticals supply chain. We’ve 12,500 medicines and we’ve got twice that number of non-medicine supplies.

'In my own practice in the Midlands, I worry that the printer paper will run out, the cartridges, the lights will go out, the disinfectant will run out. And it’s those things that will close our practices up and down the country. If the surgeries close, the hospitals will fall over.'

Labour MP Jon Ashworth responded by saying the Government must address this or it would ground not just the NHS, but a 'whole raft of other services' to a halt.

He said: 'It’s a really strong point and I've actually spent time shadowing you in your practice. Obviously we’re focusing on medicines but we do need to be reassured by the Government there is a plan for these basic things, which will actually be grounding not just the NHS, but a whole raft of other services to a halt.

'Another issue is hospital catering and food supplies that are going to be a huge challenge. I just hope the government does have a plan in place.'

Professor Stokes-Lampard told Pulse that the RCGP does not want to 'create panic' but she is not hearing a narrative about non-pharmaceuticals.

She added: 'For every medicine prescription, there are twice as many things that we use in the NHS that are non-medicine related and I’m not hearing a narrative about that and I’m trying to call that out.

'We don’t want to create panic, that helps nobody, but we do need practices up and down the country thinking about their basic supplies of non-medical products as well as medical products. Are they stocked up on, for example, prescription paper, toner cartridges, disinfectant?

'Actually rubber gloves come under medical devices, but there's a fine line here between knowing these things and understanding your own supply chain. If it's printer paper, you might be able to go across the road to Tescos to buy a package. If it’s prescription punting which comes from somewhere else, is our supply chain secure? I don’t know the answer to that. I hope somebody does.'

The Department of Health and Social Care has worked with the NHS Business Service Authority, who holds the contract for prescription paper, to ensure stockpiles are in place from the supplier. 

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'We want to reassure the public we are doing everything we can and working closely with partners across the health and care system and industry to prepare for Brexit on 31 October, whatever the circumstances.

'As part of our extensive contingency planning, we have been engaging with suppliers of non-clinical goods and services, including food, maintenance services and prescription paper to ensure patients continue to receive the same high standard of care.'

Readers' comments (19)

  • don"t worry, someone will turn it into a business opportunity and make money out of it.

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  • I am afraid I do not agree with concerns reported by this article attributed to Professor Stoles-Lampard. It would appear that this GP and many others do not understand resilience building for anticipated non-pharma products or related items and services. This should be part of your business continuity plan. Your practice manager along with your executive team should have this in place as part of your CQC and contractual obligations. With current format of big federations and super practices there is no excuse for not planning for the areas mentioned in the report. The risk to non-availability of pharmaceuticals or others for dispensing practices can be managed along with support from DoH, The view that practices will close is not good analysis and is scaremongering by media. I am in the midlands and happy to help any practice who feels they are at risk of closing or cannot manage building risk resilience.

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  • Vinci Ho

    I let you guys to consider this question:
    Is it politically appropriate for the chair of RCGP to attend and speak at a political party conference in such a sensitive time of history in our country?
    Helen , I suppose you will go to all the other party conferences and speak the same thing , won’t you ?

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  • @Peter Patel
    What do you suggest? Stockpiling gloves???
    @Vinci Go
    She's asking a question. What's your answer? Do you really think considering appropriateness is what matters???

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  • How does it not surprise me that the RCGP chair is a lefty/socialist.....

    More worryingly, what happened to evidence? Is there any that printer paper would run out??? I smell a whole lot of bulls*… But I see a lot of evidence that the RCGP is partisan, political, etc...

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  • RCGP promoting project fear - what next :

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  • This is unacceptable, my rcgp also needs to own and promote my pro brexit views as an rcgp member as well as the remainer members

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  • Echo Vinci Ho and NI GP
    Fed up of left with g RCGP agenda - claiming to speak for all doctors- they don’t and can’t - and do should shut up on such political matters! Not like they don’t have enough to do sorting out stupid PCNs and contract and CQC rubbish. Taking the biscuit.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Perhaps I need to declare : I did vote Remain during the referendum. But it is also my belief , our representative bodies including BMA , RCGP( which I am never a member ) etc . should always remain politically central .
    Yes , the government and its PM had attempted to betray the virtues of western democracy we believe in but that does not mean we should walk into the trap of disrespecting each other’s political preferences.
    Fine . she had said what she said in one political party conference. She should do the same in al the other conferences as well , I believe.

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  • Brexit = Printer Paper running out?!

    Really?!

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