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NHS hospitals in England risk drug shortages in no-deal Brexit scenario, leaked letter warns

With a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly possible, a group representing hospitals in England has sounded the warning.

File photo
File photo
Image: Peter Byrne/PA Images

THE GROUP THAT represents hospitals and ambulance services in England has warned that the NHS faces running out of drugs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In a leaked letter from NHS Providers, seen by The Times, it warns that on the first day outside the EU “the entire supply chain of pharmaceuticals could be adversely affected”.

Its chief executive Chris Hopson told NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens that “public health and disease control coordination could suffer”, in a no-deal Brexit.

The UK is set to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, and time is running out for both sides to conclude negotiations, with much left to be decided.

As the risk of the UK leaving the EU without trade and customs arrangements begins to look increasingly likely, Hopson said it was necessary for detailed contingency plans to be put in place to protect the health service.

He added, however, that there appeared to be a lack of national planning from the NHS on the matter.

“For as long as that risk remains it is important that detailed operation planning is undertaken across the NHS,” Hopson wrote. “Yet trusts tell us that their work in this area is being hampered by the lack of visible and appropriate communication.

Our members have begun planning… but they have hit a problem, in that some activities are clearly best done at a national level… However there has been no formal communication to trusts from either of your organisations on this issue.

If there is no such national coordination, he argued, it could mean both stockpiles and shortages of medicines and medical devices in individual hospitals.

The UK’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is due to travel to Brussels this week for further talks with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier, and he has said striking a deal is still the most likely outcome.

Despite this, a number of UK ministers have warned that a no-deal Brexit remains likely in recent weeks and months.

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Sean Murray

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