Plans to set aside six weeks’ worth of vital medicines to avoid supply disruptions caused by a no-deal Brexit could cost as much as £2bn, pro-remain group Best for Britain has warned.
Health secretary Matt Hancock last week wrote to healthcare providers saying his department would “ensure the UK has an additional six weeks supply of medicines” by the March 2019 exit date, “in case imports from the EU through certain routes are affected”.
But using last year's NHS spending data as a baseline, Best for Britain has suggested the temporary stockpile could cost up to £2bn.
Data collated by think tank the King’s Fund earlier this year suggested the total drugs bill for the NHS in 2016-17 was £17.4bn.
Labour MP Owen Smith, former shadow Northern Ireland secretary and Best for Britain supporter, said: “I don’t remember anyone warning that Brexit would mean we'd have to stockpile drugs or this would cost the NHS and taxpayers up to £2 billion. Maybe they should have slapped that on the side of the bus.”
Last month, an NHS procurement head told SM concerns over a medical supply shortage in the case of a no-deal Brexit were no more than “scaremongering”.
Alan Hoskins, procurement director for NHS South of England, said the UK already had “certain products and drugs that are stockpiled for a pandemic,” and that Brexit contingency planning was “nothing different to what we deal with on a regular basis”.
Meanwhile, last week’s tranche of official no-deal Brexit guidance, in the event the UK has to trade with the EU on WTO terms, has provoked reaction from a range of industry sectors:
Agriculture: Minnie Batters, chairman of the National Farmers’ Union, warned that if the terms were applied across the wider UK food supply chain, it would be disastrous for farm businesses. The trade terms would be “hugely disruptive” and could threaten livelihoods, she said. They were “a sobering reminder of what is at stake,” she said.
Logistics: The industry “still needs answers”, according to Freight Transport Association European (FTA) policy manager, Sarah Laouadi. “No deal would be disastrous for logistics,” she said. The FTA said: “Whilst today’s papers provide some welcome advice on how to prepare contingency plans, more information is needed.”
Retail: “Any delays caused by increased red tape will have a serious impact on over one-third of our food imports,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium. “The government’s technical notices demonstrate the facts of a no-deal Brexit – reduced availability and higher prices of food and medicine, increased delays and red tape at borders, and a VAT bombshell for consumers and businesses.”
Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said: “By now, few can be in any doubt that no deal would wreak havoc on economies across Europe. These papers show that those who claim crashing out of the EU on World Trade Organisation rules is acceptable live in a world of fantasy, where facts are not allowed to challenge ideology.
“It’s right and responsible that the government have supplied information to businesses on issues from financial services passporting to food labelling, all of which will help lower the risks of the harshest outcomes from a no-deal Brexit. But without a similar response from the EU, many of these mitigating measures would be blunted.”
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