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Pharmacy needs ‘Cobra’ meetings to handle no-deal Brexit shortages

Pharmacy should be involved in Cobra-style crisis meetings to tackle medicines supply issues in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the wholesalers' body has suggested.

The “daily war room” meetings could share information from across the supply chain, with the aim of preventing shortages, Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) executive director Martin Sawer told C+D yesterday (December 20).

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) should chair the meetings, which would include the community pharmacy Brexit forum – a group of representative bodies from the sector and the supply chain set up by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee – Mr Sawer said.

The meetings should also include representatives from the General Pharmaceutical Council, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the NHS, the British Medical Association, the HDA and manufacturers, Mr Sawer said.

Together they would try to “deal with any flashpoints as they arise, whether it’s a manufacturing problem or a shortage in one area”, Mr Sawer said.

Wholesalers are able to deliver medicines overnight where necessary, he pointed out.

The DH said yesterday it is “still considering” responses to its consultation on the protocol for emergency powers for pharmacists to dispense an alternative medicine without contacting a GP in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which it will reply to in the new year, a solution which Mr Sawer first proposed to MPs in October.

UPDATE: Monday, December 24

Further advice from the Department of Health and Social Care (DH)

The DH has published its ‘EU Exit operational readiness guidance’ for all health and social care providers.

The key messages for community pharmacies, according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC):

  • Community pharmacies do not need to take any action themselves regarding the medicines or clinical consumables supply at this time
  • When asked, pharmacists and their teams should reassure patients that plans are in place to maintain continuity of supply of medicines and medical devices
  • Work is underway with representative bodies, however, community pharmacies are asked to consider the impact of possible disruption to the supply of non-clinical goods and services and to understand the risks to activity if there is disruption in supply
  • Pharmacies are asked to ensure that staff are aware of the EU Settlement Scheme for health and care staff who are EU nationals and actively support them to apply. The scheme will then open fully in March 2019 and remain open until at least the end of 2020, so there will be plenty of time for EU staff to register
  • Note that the current arrangements for reciprocal healthcare and for overseas visitors and migrant cost recovery will continue to operate until March 29, 2019. Any changes to charging policies will be communicated to contractors, following the outcome of negotiations relating to reciprocal healthcare.

Source: PSNC, December 21

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