Scottish NHS planning medicine stockpile for no-deal Brexit

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NHS Scotland has drawn up a list of imported EU drugs and health equipment that will need to be stockpiled under a no-deal Brexit as part of “detailed” planning for the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement.

Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s chief medical officer, said the NHS was working to “ensure that there are enough medicines for us in Scotland” in a no-deal scenario, including plans to secure supplies of “problematic” medical products from the EU.

Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Her comments came as a leaked email from health providers to the head of the NHS in England warned of a lack of adequate contingency planning in the health service south of the Border.

UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab met the EU’s chief negotiator in Brussels yesterday and agreed to move into “continuous negotiation” in a bid to resolve the continuing deadlock on issues, including the Irish border and trade.

With the stakes rising as time runs out to reach an agreement, Michel Barnier insisted the EU was not responsible for the growing risk of no deal, suggesting Brussels was “not impressed” by what he called a brewing “blame game” in the UK.

A breakthrough in time for an EU summit in October now seems unlikely, after Mr Barnier said a deal was needed “well before the end of the year … [around the] beginning of November, but not much later than that”.

Mr Raab said publication of the first batch of technical papers on preparations and advice for a no-deal Brexit would contradict some of the “hair-raising scare stories” circulating about the impact of talks in Brussels failing.

And last night he said EU residents living in the UK would not be “turfed out” even if an agreement with Brussels on citizens rights was not signed.

UK government contingency plans are reported to set out how parts of the UK furthest from the main ports in the south-east of England, including Scotland, could run low on food and medicine within days without a Brexit deal.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Calderwood said: “We have some very detailed plans, a report of what might be problematic to access, and we will be working again very closely with the Department of Health to ensure that there are enough medicines for us in Scotland.”

She revealed NHS Scotland would need its own stockpiles of some medical supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit, adding: “The plans that we have discussed involve ensuring that there is a supply of medicines. That will mean having those available within the UK, and particularly us in Scotland having our own supplies. So if there is a problem with ferry and air freight and the border we already have the medication, we already have the intravenous fluids and the equipment already in the country for the use of our patients in the NHS in Scotland.”

In an email to the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, the head of the organisation representing hospital, community health and ambulance trusts in England warned “public health and disease control co-ordination could suffer” in a no-deal Brexit. NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said leaving the EU without an agreement would affect “the entire supply chain of pharmaceuticals” as well as the NHS workforce, which relies heavily on European nationals.

The leaked email warned the risk of a Brexit “with minimal regulatory alignment [with the EU] appears to be growing” and that preparation work “is being hampered by the lack of visible and appropriate communication” from NHS England leadership.

In Brussels, Mr Barnier said it was still possible for the EU and the UK to find “common ground” based on Theresa May’s Chequers plan, but insisted Brussels would not compromise on the core principles of the single market.

“Why would we? The UK is leaving the European Union, it is not the other way around,” he told reporters.

“The European Union is based on principles and values, on rules. It is a whole eco-system, which is integrated of rules and laws and standards, of supervision and of certification ... which the UK knows very, very well because we built it together, didn’t we?”

“We have been building it over some 40 or so years together. So those principles will remain our principles because that is the way it is.”