Brexit: Health leaders warn PM about medicine shortages and flu

‘Very real possibility’ life-saving drugs and devices will be delayed from reaching patients, say heads of 17 organisations

Chris Baynes
Thursday 22 August 2019 02:54 BST
Health leaders have warned Boris Johnson about the impact Brexit could have on the NHS
Health leaders have warned Boris Johnson about the impact Brexit could have on the NHS (AFP/Getty Images)

Health leaders have written to Boris Johnson warning of their “significant concerns” about shortages of vital medical supplies after a no-deal Brexit.

In a joint letter to the prime minister, the heads of 17 royal colleges and charities said there was “a very real possibility that life-saving medication and devices” will be delayed from reaching the UK due to hold-ups at the border.

“The public rightly expects candour from us, and we are simply unable to reassure patients that their health and care won’t be negatively impacted by the UK’s exit from the EU,” they added.

Leaked government documents revealed last week the Cabinet Office expects food, fuel and medicine shortages as a no-deal Brexit triggers months of chaos at the border.

Medical supplies will “be vulnerable to severe extended delays” because three-quarters of the UK’s medicines enter the country via the main Channel crossings, the dossier conceded.

Writing to Mr Johnson, the health leaders raised particular concern about the UK crashing out of the EU at the beginning of winter flu season.

“Even a ‘moderate’ flu season places significant additional pressure on the NHS. Your EU exit strategy must include provision for different flu scenarios,” said the letter, orchestrated by the Royal College of Physicians.

Senior doctors at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of GPs, the British Dental Association, the Royal College of Nursing, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society were among the signatories of the letter.

They urged the PM to “put patient safety and protecting the nation’s health at the heart of Brexit negotiations” by asking the health secretary to join his EU exit strategy committee.

The government said it was “doing everything appropriate to prepare to leave the EU on the 31st October, whatever the circumstance”.

A spokesperson added: “The Department of Health and Social Care has been working closely with partners across the health and care system and industry on robust preparations.

“Patients can be reassured that our plans should ensure the supply of medicines and medical products remains uninterrupted and they will continue to receive the excellent standard of care they currently do.”

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