The Department of Health and Social Care is setting up an ‘express freight service’ to deliver medical products into the UK following the exit from the EU on 31 October.
The service, worth £25m, will bring urgent medicine and medical products to the UK within 24 to 72 hours.
Small parcels of medicine will be sent out on a ’24-hour basis’ and the service will intend to deliver larger pellet-sized quantities on a two to four-day basis. The express service will also be used for temperature-controlled products if needed, according to DHSC.
The BMA has said it is ‘beyond alarming’ that the UK could be dependent on this ‘costly’ service.
BMA deputy chair Dr David Wrigley, said: ‘It is beyond alarming that the future delivery of medicine and medical supplies in the UK could be dependent on a freight service – for which the supplier hasn’t yet even been appointed.
‘This latest announcement from the Government is a further indication of the chaos that will lay in store for the NHS and patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit and highlights just how costly this will be.
‘A no-deal Brexit could lead to untold disruption for health services and severely impact patients’ health if they either don’t get the medicines they are totally dependent on or those medicines arrive damaged, unfit for purpose or just too late. The inability to supply critical medication will place patients’ lives at risk.’
Health minister Chris Skidmore said the service will strengthen the department’s ‘already resilient’ contingency plans.
He said: ‘I want to ensure that when we leave the EU at the end of October, all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure frontline services are fully prepared. That’s why we are stepping up preparations and strengthening our already extremely resilient contingency plans.
‘This express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU.’
The bidding for the contract will be open until 21 August and the successful provider will be announced in September, according to DHSC.
The contract will run for 12 months, and may be extended a further year, allowing for a range of potential Brexit scenarios.
The DHSC has added that it expects the taxpayer will be liable for ‘up to’ £4m of the total contract but expects it to cost much less.
It comes as the Government recently announced an investment of £434m, part of an immediate £1.1m cash boost, for stockpiling and freight capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.