Re-route away from Dover straits, NHS suppliers warned

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
28 June 2019

Suppliers of medicines and medical products should consider re-routing supply away from the Dover straits in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In a letter Steve Oldfield, chief commercial officer at the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC), said “significant disruption” was expected at this border point for six months following 31 October – the current date when the UK is due to leave the EU – with the “most severe period being the first three months”.

In the letter, leaked to SM, Oldfield said the main risk to supply was “predicted reduced traffic flow” at the ports of Dover and Folkestone. He said three quarters of medicines and half of clinical consumables in the UK came from or via the EU and “the vast majority are reliant on these crossings”.

He said: “We strongly recommend that suppliers of medicines and medical products review their supply routes and, where necessary, put in place robust plans to re-route supply away from the disrupted short straits routes into the UK, especially during the first three months following 31 October when the most significant disruption is anticipated.”

Oldfield said medicine suppliers’ preparations should involve a combination of securing capacity away from the Dover straits, stockpiling products at a default level of six weeks above business as usual, and readiness for customs and border requirements.

He said the DHSC had agreed contracts for additional warehouse space, including ambient, refrigerated and controlled drug storage.

Oldfield said the DHSC was working to develop a central stockpile of fast-moving medical devices and clinical consumables, but this would not cover all product lines and suppliers should implement their own arrangements.

Similar to the previous March exit date preparations, the DHSC intends to procure “Express Freight Services” for small consignments on a 24-hour basis, and a two-to-four day pallet delivery service, along with ferry freight capacity.

Oldfield said: “We will continue to ask health and social care service providers to avoid local stockpiling over and above business as usual ahead of 31 October as it is unnecessary and could cause shortages in other areas, which could put patient care at risk. Nor do patients need to personally stockpile medicines.”

Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to become the next prime minister, has said the UK will leave the EU on 31 October “do or die”.

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