The Government’s new international transport system which hopes to fast track medicines in short supply will have ‘no impact’ on existing supply chains, according to the director of the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA).

The International Express Freight Service was launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) last week (4 November) to guarantee patients have access to the medicines they need in the event of a supplier's logistical problems. 

The service will aim to collect and deliver small parcels from suppliers within 24 to 48 hours and pallets or shipments within two to four working days. Specialised products with a controlled or regulated handling requirement will be fast-tracked within 24 hours. 

DHSC said the new service will ‘support supply chain resilience in the UK’ and ‘mitigate potential shortages’. 

However, Martin Sawer, executive director of the HDA told The Pharmacist last week (5 November) that the service will have ‘no impact’ on existing supply chains, pharmacies or wholesalers. This is because the quantities of medicines which the service will transport are ‘very small’. 

He said that the service was initially just launched in Europe in the run up to Brexit but has since been extended to be an international service.  

‘It is not a huge deal’, he said, ‘it is just a last resort to ensure resilience and continuing of medicine supply’.  

Medical manufacturers and suppliers are required to register before they can access the Government service. 

Kuehne+Nagel International, a Swiss logistics company, has been commissioned by the Government to operate the express freight service. 

Health minister, Edward Argar, said: ‘Our absolute priority is to help ensure NHS patients can always access the treatments they need without delay. 

‘Global supply chains are unpredictable and our new International Express Freight Service will rapidly transport medical products in shortage to the UK within days. 

‘We are committed to building back stronger from the pandemic, and more resilient supply chains are a crucial part of that.’ 

In November 2020, local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) expressed concern about the impact the UK’s exit from the European Union would have on pharmacies in England, with half saying they were worried pharmacies will be blamed for any medicine supply problems caused by Brexit. 

Meanwhile, in September, pharmacists reported medicine supply issues due to the fuel crisis.