Health secretary Matt Hancock has been given a 10-day deadline to respond to queries about a potential medicines 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 (24 January), 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 last week (18 January) that it has laid draft legislation to give pharmacists the power to swap GP prescriptions for alternatives during shortages. The so-called serious shortages protocols (SSPs) could be deployed in the event of serious shortages post-Brexit.

In August, Mr Hancock asked pharmaceutical companies to hold a minimum of 42 days extra of supply of medicines ‘over and above their business as usual operational buffer stock’ as part of the Government’s contingency plan to ensure patients can get the medicines they need in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Pharmacists were, however, advised to not stockpile medicines unnecessarily.

A first version of this article was published on our sister publication Pulse.


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