On Wednesday night, BBC Newsnight revealed some life-saving drugs have proved impossible to stockpile – including those used to treat epilepsy – and that the doctors who had been given this information had been told to keep quiet.
Back in January the health secretary Matthew Hancock told parliament that the requisite medicine supplies had been stockpiled in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Last night we learned that was not the case. Currently, a no deal would mean potential shortages of three important drugs for epilepsy, bipolar disorder and neuropathic pain. This would be life threatening for patients.
Dr David Nicholl, consultant neurologist at University Hospital Birmingham received the confidential documents in March and has since refused to keep quiet. Thanks to him, patients with epilepsy including myself now understand the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. (I was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of seven. My seizures are fairly controlled thanks to my medicine but they come in the night or times of great stress).
The documents, sent round to senior clinicians such as Dr Nicholl, stated that “a patient’s treatment regime would require change” in the result of no deal and so “clinical outcomes would be compromised as a result”.
A disruption in a patient’s change of medication, according to Dr Nicholl, could mean “the end of driving, the end of work – and also potentially a risk of death or injury from seizures”.
Last Friday, I went to my local surgery in London and have asked for a repeat prescription for my epileptic medicine. They told me it would be ready at my pharmacy for Monday or Tuesday.
I went to pick it up from the pharmacy on Wednesday and for the first time my pharmacist told me that he hadn’t received the medicine. These included my anticonvulsants for epilepsy and insulin for diabetes. This is exceedingly worrying for someone like myself, as well as other patients in the UK who have chronic illnesses.
Cabinet ministers and MPs who support a no-deal Brexit need to realise this – the NHS simply isn’t prepared for a crash out.
The UK is due to leave the EU in eight days’ time. The prime minister Theresa May would like to seek a short extension but some EU leaders like French president Emmanuel Macron may not be in favour.
Patients who suffer from medical conditions are living in worrying times. I want to thank Dr Nicholl for blowing the whistle on this but it’s hard not to think that doctors in the NHS should have been given more freedom to talk about the potential catastrophe of a no deal a lot earlier.
The best thing for people like myself and other British citizens who suffer from epilepsy, bipolar and neurological conditions, is for a people’s vote.
I was at the Put It to the People March a few weeks ago and I spoke to several nurses and doctors who are worried about the future of the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
I was glad to hear of their concerns – but now is the time for them to take a leaf out of Dr Nicholl’s book and speak up in public. With Britain teetering on a no-deal knife edge, now is the time to break their silence.
I expect the health secretary Matt Hancock will be forced to make a statement in parliament on the subject after he falsely pledged that stockpiling medicines for a no-deal scenario was going smoothly.
But, if I’m honest, that’ll do nothing to allay my fears about a no-deal Brexit – and the epilepsy drugs that I’m still waiting for.
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