Best for Britain said the Government’s plan to hold an extra six weeks worth of medicine supplies if it fails to reach a Brexit deal by the 29 March deadline could cost up to £2bn.
The campaign group estimated this cost based on data obtained by think tank the King’s Fund, which showed NHS England spent £17.4bn on medicines in 2016/2017.
Last week (23 August), health and social care secretary Matt Hancock advised community pharmacies to not ‘take any steps to stockpile additional medicines, beyond their business as usual stock levels’.
A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson told The Pharmacist today (29 August) that ‘at this stage, the department is only asking suppliers to provide specific information on their stockpiling programme to gauge how prepared the industry is before we decide the next steps’.
They continued: ‘We have put in place a dedicated team to support suppliers in making arrangements for stockpiling and we will work with companies to develop plans to minimise any additional costs of stockpiling.’
In July, Mr Hancock told Government body the Health and Social Care Committee he might consider stockpiling drugs in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
Best for Britain supporter and Pontypridd MP Owen Smith said: ’I don’t remember anyone warning that Brexit would mean we’d have stockpile drugs or this would cost the NHS and taxpayers up to £2bn. Maybe they should have slapped that on the side of the bus.
‘Every day it seems as though there is another hidden cost being revealed.’
According to Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) chief executive Mike Thompson, it is not clear at the moment who will have to bear the cost of these additional drugs, should the Government go ahead with its plan.
He told BBC Newsnight last week (23 August): ‘We are used to having buffer stocks – we can never afford to run out of medicines so we carry buffer stocks anyway.
‘I think the Government will need to put their hands into their pockets because there is a huge amount that they’re asking to do.
‘The more they help, the more they reduce the risk to patients so I think they need to step forward.’