Why I’m far from reassured by Matt Hancock’s medicines-before-food Brexit pledge


By Beth Kennedy

08 Feb 2019

Our editor-in-chief Beth Kennedy ponders why we should have to choose between these two vital lifelines, whatever the Brexit outcome


As the Brexit deadline draws closer, it’s difficult to avoid the increasingly worrisome predictions as to what calamities will befall Britain if it leaves the European Union (EU) without a deal.

Whether you see these headlines as unnecessarily alarmist or pragmatic warnings very much depends on your attitude to Brexit as a whole. But last week’s news (29 January) that Britain will prioritise importing medicines rather than ‘vital food‘ to ensure a continuous supply of medicines in a no-deal Brexit understandably left alarm bells ringing for most.

While it’s obviously something of a relief that the Government appears to be making every effort (or at least a show of doing so) to make sure the UK has the medicines it needs , it’s still rather frightening that this could be at the cost of something as vital as food.

The Catch 22 nature of this choice leaves me once again wondering whether we can really afford to take the no-deal Brexit gamble. After all, as any contractor will tell you, shortages have been such a problem over the past few years even without Brexit being part of the equation that the prospect of them becoming any worse is unthinkable.

If getting your hands on an EpiPen with any kind of ease seems like a distant memory by this time next year, then just imagine how bad food shortages could be. Say goodbye to those imported foods we all love so much, folks. Sayonara, pasta! So long, halloumi!

Dramatic, me? Well, maybe a bit. But the fact remains that we shouldn’t have to make a decision between these two vital resources. And if that’s what a no-deal Brexit could mean, it needs to be avoided at all costs.

After a year of chronic shortages, no additional Government funding and the pressures of the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), community pharmacy cannot afford to take any more hits.

While it’s ultimately up to the Government to get its act together and agree a feasible Brexit deal with the EU (a scary prospect, given its apparent inability to do so almost three years after the referendum), pharmacists can join forces to mitigate the effects of Brexit shortages as much as possible.

Our award-winning #WarOnShortages campaign has chronicled the devastating effects of medicines shortages on pharmacists and patients alike, and the next stage of the campaign will see us go after Brexit shortages.

But we need your help. Join our #WarOnShortages by taking to social media with the hashtag to let us know how problems with the supply chain and Brexit are affecting your business.

Be part of the conversation by attending out annual Pharmacy Forward event, where we will be discussing shortages and debating Brexit stockpiling. We hope to see you there.


Register for Pharmacy Forward here