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Supply issues

Government sets up dedicated no-deal Brexit shipping route for medical products with 'short lead times'

A “dedicated shipment channel” will enable suppliers with short lead times to import medical products to the UK from the EU after Brexit, according to government contingency plans.

Imports of medicines

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The Department of Health and Social Care has set up a logistics hub in Belgium, which is expected to move medical products from mainland Europe into the UK within three days

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has established a “dedicated shipment channel” for suppliers of medical products that need to be urgently imported to the UK from the EU after Brexit.

The plans are laid out in a letter to suppliers, which was sent on 18 February 2019 by Steve Oldfield, chief commercial officer at the DHSC, as part of the government’s no-deal Brexit contingency planning.

As part of the government’s contingency plans, companies have already been asked to create a six-week stockpile of medicines in preparation for a no-deal scenario.

But the DHSC said in the letter that it recognises “that not all suppliers of medical devices and clinical consumables have the capability to hold stock of their full product range in the UK, often due to the need to supply goods on a ‘just in time’ basis as part of a clinical procedure, and they routinely supply product directly from distribution centres in the EU to care providers or patients”.

The DHSC said in the letter that the route will be open to suppliers with “short lead times” of between 24 hours and 72 hours and has encouraged companies to register to use the route “as an important element of their preparedness arrangements”.

To coordinate the shipment channel’s use, the department has set up a “logistics hub in Belgium”, which is expected to “move products from mainland Europe into the UK and through to care providers and patients, typically within three days” of their arrival into the hub.

Plans for the dedicated shipment route come as health secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament on 19 February 2019 that the DHSC has spent £11m on contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit, adding that he expects “it will remain at about that level, or a little higher”.

Stephen Hammond, minister of state for health and social care, had previously said that storage facilities to hold the required six-week stockpile of medicines was “expected to cost the government in the low tens of millions of pounds with the refrigerated storage expected to cost circa £1m”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206196

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