Plans to avoid supply chain disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit must be reactivated ‘within the next days or weeks’ to prevent shortages, NHS chief Simon Stevens has said.
Speaking before the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee this week (25 June), Mr Stevens said it was ‘critical’ to reactivate extra transport capacity plans ‘to reduce the risks of supply disruption’.
Arrangements for a no-deal scenario were put on hold across the Government and public sector on 26 April, he added.
Mr Stevens told the committee: ‘Our view is that if the country wants to be ready for the possibility, however remote, of no-deal on 31 October then it is critical that the transport logistics links are reactivated very quickly.
‘The NHS is completely dependent on the additional dedicated cross-ferry capacity.
‘If that’s going to be available in time for 31 October, the Government has got to push the button on those additional contracts…within the next several days or weeks.’
Mr Stevens clarified it would not be ‘too late’ for the as-yet undecided prime minister who will replace Theresa May to activate the plans after their appointment on 23 July. But it would be ‘advisable’ to make decisions ‘sooner rather than later’, he said.
Mr Stevens said the previous plans undertaken by the Department for Transport (DfT) were ‘done in quite a [condensed] timescale, with various issues that arose as a result’.
He declined to comment on the cost of making the contingency plans and said it was a matter for the DfT to answer.
The NHS chief praised the ‘enormous amount of work’ put into preparing for a no-deal scenario by the NHS.
However, Mr Stevens stressed the NHS’ reliance on dedicated shipping and airplane capability to ensure supply chains for health supplies.
Meanwhile, a recent survey revealed that almost two-thirds of primary care workers predict Brexit will worsen medicine shortages.