Prime Minister Theresa May failed to get parliament to back her deal for Brexit last week (December 11), prompting the government to implement its emergency no-deal Brexit contingency plans.
The government intends to hold another vote the week of January 14.
Despite health secretary Matt Hancock warning earlier this month that medicines supply could be delayed by up to six months in a “worst-case…no-deal scenario”, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) has stressed that its advice on stockpiling remains the same, it told C+D yesterday (December 20).
Mr Hancock wrote to all frontline healthcare providers in August to advise them on what to do in the case of the UK and EU failing to secure a deal before March.
He warned community pharmacies, as well as hospitals and GPs, not to stockpile any medicines ahead of Brexit, and said “there is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions”.
However, “pharmaceutical companies should ensure they have an additional six weeks' supply of medicines in the UK on top of their own normal stock levels”, and pharmaceutical companies should “ensure they have plans in place to air freight” short-shelf-life products whose import routes through the EU may be affected, he said at the time.
On December 7, Mr Hancock again wrote to healthcare providers to update them on the DH’s progress – including its arrangements for the air freight of short-shelf-life medicines – and once again stressed that healthcare providers and patients should not stockpile.
How are the multiples preparing for a no deal?
Lloydspharmacy told C+D it has been following guidance set out by the health secretary and stressed that its “priority remains to ensure that patients receive the right medicines in the right place at the right time”.
“Regardless of the outcome of the parliamentary debate and vote on Brexit, we will work with the NHS and other partners to ensure that patients are not negatively impacted,” it said.
Well Pharmacy’s superintendent Janice Perkins told C+D the multiple has also been following government guidance.
“I have been involved in discussions about Brexit with the government and trade associations, including the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), to ensure that we have all the latest information.
“Once we know the outcomes of the Brexit negotiation, we will then brief all our colleagues on the next steps,” she said.
When asked by C+D how Boots is preparing for a no-deal Brexit, the mutliple's parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance said it “will not speculate on the possible impact of Brexit”.
“As the terms and conditions of Brexit are still being negotiated by the UK government and the EU, it is currently not possible to know the actual extent of the impact that any changes will bring.”
What does PSNC advise?
PSNC told C+D it continues to discuss contingency plans with the DH, and host meetings via its Brexit forum – a group of representative bodies from the sector and the supply chain set up “to identify issues and concerns that Brexit may present”.
“Our biggest concern is to ensure that pharmacies and the patients they serve can continue to access the medicines they need, when they need them,” PSNC said.
“For now, the advice to pharmacies remains the same, as per [Mr Hancock’s] letter.”