A new plan aiming to shore up the UK’s supply of pharmaceuticals has been unveiled by the government.

As part of the Department for Business and Trade’s (DBT’s) recently launched Critical Imports and Supply Chains Strategy, an online portal will be set up to allow importers of essential goods – including medicines and healthcare supplies – to report disruption affecting their supplies.

The government will then ‘work to remove these barriers wherever possible’.

In addition, a critical imports council will be established with the aim of allowing businesses to work with the government in identifying and addressing risks to essential supplies.

The DBT said supply chain ‘stress tests’ would be carried out, and the department will work with the Government Office for Science to map future scenarios and use the outputs to inform policy development.

The launch of the strategy follows prolonged supply chain disruption in the pharmaceutical industry. A recent report found that the majority of pharmacists have experienced aggression from patients due to medicine shortages.

According to the DBT, there are ‘a comprehensive range of policies and contingency plans in place’ to manage medicine supply chain disruption.

The department added that measures such as stockpiling and targeted buffer stocks are specifically designed to mitigate a specific product shortage, while the Department of Health and Social Care has procured an express freight service contract to ‘provide emergency logistics for any medical product from anywhere in the world’.

According to the new strategy document, the NHS will implement multiple supplier framework agreements to ‘improve security of supply and to manage demand spikes or individual supplier challenges’.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry welcomed the DBT’s new strategy launch. Richard Torbett, the organisation’s chief executive, said: ‘The government’s approach to the critical imports for pharmaceuticals will support our industry to maintain resilient supply chains, helping to ensure consistent access to medicines for UK patients.’

He added: ‘Recent global events like the pandemic have shown that our industry can manage and address global supply chain shocks, especially when working collaboratively with government, and this strategy supports our industry in doing so going forward.’