Despite ongoing engagement with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), 17 healthcare organisations – including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and Royal College of General Practitioners – have “significant concerns about shortages of medical supplies” should the UK exit the EU without a deal on October 31.
There is also a “very real possibility” that deliveries of “life-saving medication and devices” will be delayed from entering the UK, the organisations said in a joint letter sent to Boris Johnson yesterday (August 21).
“We are simply unable to reassure patients that their health and care won’t be negatively impacted by the UK’s exit from the EU,” they warned. “Even the smallest of problems could have huge consequences for the lives and wellbeing of millions of people.”
Brexit clash with flu season
The issues are further compounded by the fact that the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31, just as the flu season begins, they warned.
“Even a moderate flu season places significant additional pressure on the NHS,” they stressed.
The organisations called on Mr Johnson to include health secretary Matt Hancock in the government’s ‘exiting the EU committee’ – a group of MPs tasked with “examining the expenditure, administration and policy” of the UK’s exit from the EU.
There are currently no members of the DH on the committee. But the 17 healthcare organisations argue that: “The implications of a no-deal exit from the EU for the NHS and wider health and care system must be considered at the highest levels of government decision making.”
For example, the EU exit strategy “must include provision for different flu scenarios” and Mr Hancock is well placed to coordinate that, they said.
The DH told C+D that Mr Hancock is regularly invited to attend the EU exit committee’s meetings and NHS England and Public Health England are working closely with all suppliers of the flu vaccines to maintain overall supply for patients ahead of winter.
“The government is doing everything appropriate to prepare to leave the EU on October 31, whatever the circumstance,” it said.
“Patients can be reassured that our plans should ensure the supply of medicines and medical products remains uninterrupted and they will continue to receive the excellent standard of care they currently do.”
Read the letter in full.