I'm on a quest to find out if a no-deal Brexit will kill me, but the NHS won't give me any answers

The prospect of a no-deal outcome has led to the NHS stockpiling medicines. Trouble is, will it have enough, and will it’s forecasts for what is required prove accurate?

James Moore
Thursday 26 July 2018 09:51
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Matt Hancock talks about stockpiling of blood products in the event of a no deal Brexit

So, Theresa May, am I going to be able to get my insulin if, when, the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal as a substantial chunk of your party, together with a handful of Labour MPs, appear to want?

As the prime minister of the UK and Britain’s most prominent type 1 diabetic, I don’t imagine you’ll have anything to worry about.

But for those who don’t enjoy such an exalted position, it looks like it’s going to be squeaky bum time, at least if the investigations I recently conducted are anything to go on.

As you’ll know, the NHS has admitted stockpiling medicines ahead of Kent being turned into a lorry park in the wake of a no-deal outcome. Trouble is, will it have enough, and will its forecasts for what is required prove accurate?

That’s kind of the million euro question, isn’t it? Because if it gets the answer wrong then the future for those of us who rely on prescription medication like insulin, as you and I do, could be bleak.

You think I’m exaggerating? Scaremongering?

Think again.

This is the question I recently asked NHS England one morning (I’ve copied and pasted from the email its press office insisted I send because telephones are such old tech): “Can you categorically assure me that insulin, and blood testing supplies, will be secure in the event of a no-deal Brexit?”

Now if there were no doubt about that I would have got a simple “yes” at just after 9.30am when I made the first call. But I didn’t. Instead I was instructed to send the email so it could be picked up by the person “whose area it is”. That I did at 9.38am.

At 2.34pm, a shade under five hours later, and after one further call, this is the non answer I finally received from a press officer: “As the Department of Health lead on contingency plans, your question really is best placed for them.”

Now, in a sane country, governed by sane people, you’d expect to receive something along the lines of this within about 3.8 seconds: “Of course, why are you wasting your time asking us this, you silly boy.”

Instead, a simple yes or no question was kicked over to the Department of Health after a five hour delay. If you’re lucky you’ll get seen more quickly in a busy A&E on a Friday night.

I haven’t yet got in touch with health secretary Matt Hancock’s people because, well, is there any point? I don’t think anyone can rely upon anything your government says, or does, with respect to Brexit anymore.

Frankly, the time it took for the NHS to refuse an answer to my question speaks louder than bombs. And it throws a harsh spotlight on the willingness of your government to needlessly put at risk the lives of its citizens with long term medical conditions to keep a core of careerists and cynics in parliament, and their media cheerleaders, happy.

Here’s a secondary question that I also put in my email: “Alternatively, do you have any advice on where I should go when I jump on a plane to write about trying to secure medication that keeps me alive for The Independent, which I’m planning to do in case the answer to the above question is anything other than ‘Yes absolutely we can categorically assure you won’t need to do that.'”

My asking the follow up was prompted by my researching a piece defending the NHS and the principle of free at the point of need that is its greatest attribute.

During the course of it, I discovered that diabetics like us are needlessly dying in the US not due to the lack of availability of insulin, blood testing strips, or other diabetic drugs and equipment, but as a result of their lacking the financial resources to purchase them in a country where universal health coverage doesn’t exist.

Doctors there were quoted as half seriously suggesting that diabetics fly to France to pick up a year’s supply of insulin. It’s cheaper there because, unlike in the US, the price of drugs is controlled.

I’ve now started investigating where I might go to do the same thing if the worst comes to the worst, as looks increasingly likely.

I might not be a current or former PM, but I do have savings, and I’m hoping The Indy will front me a plane fare for the purposes of reporting on my quest so others in the same position can follow my example. I might also claim asylum while I’m at it. I’ve seen the tone some of the Brexiteers in your party have taken.

However, I’m well aware that not everyone is in the relatively fortuitous position that I’m in. Not everyone has the resources to be able to hop on a plane and shell out the couple of grand that might be required to secure a year’s supply of meds at the other end.

A game of poker is being played with their lives, and that makes me so helplessly furious I could weep. I only wish you felt the same way.

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