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Hancock given 10 days to answer no-deal Brexit medicine shortage concerns



Health secretary Matt Hancock has been given a 10-day deadline to respond to queries about a potential medicine shortage in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The EU home affairs sub-committee said Mr Hancock’s response earlier this month to previous question on the subject from last year had not ‘alleviated all of the members’ concerns’.

In the latest letter sent to Mr Hancock yesterday, the committee’s chair, Lord Jay of Ewelme said the Government had not yet explained:

  • When it will contact suppliers of medicines and medical products to give them notice and guidance on rerouting their supplies.
  • What plans Public Health England has to ensure there is no shortage of vaccines, and does it plan to stockpile them or any other products used for urgent use.
  • Whether it has a list of other products that may need to be stockpiled.
  • What effect a no-deal exit will have on pharmaceutical manufacturers.

‘Given that we are now just nine weeks away from leaving the EU with the increasing possibility of doing so without a deal, and noting the delayed response to our previous letter, we expect a response within ten working days,’ the letter said.

Lord Jay also asked for more details on the costs of flying medical products into the UK for a six-week period, which the health secretary did not previously disclose.

The committee stressed without this information it cannot fulfil its democratic obligation to scrutinise the Government.

The letter comes as the Government announced pharmacists will be given the power to swap GP prescriptions for alternatives during shortages, from 9 February. The changes were in response to a consultation prompted by preparations for a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Last December, the Government stressed there was no need for GPs to stockpile medicines, vaccines, medical devices or clinical consumables, in spite of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

GPs were also warned by the health secretary Matt Hancock that any stockpiling would be investigated, adding that the Government has contingency plans to ensure the continued supply of medicines.