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Brexit

Refrigeration for ‘no-deal’ Brexit medicine stockpiles to cost tens of millions of pounds, says Hancock

The health and social care secretary told MPs that the cost of securing cold-chain storage for stockpiling medicines in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would amount to tens of millions of pounds.

Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary

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Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, has said that the money required to build refrigeration capacity to store stockpiles of medicines would come from a fund set aside for Brexit contingency planning

Building refrigeration capacity to store stockpiles of medicines in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is expected to cost in the “low tens of millions” of pounds, the health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Speaking to MPs at a House of Commons health and social care select committee meeting on 26 November 2018, Hancock stated that the exact amount would become clear “shortly” after contract bids were finalised.

He clarified that the money would not come from the extra £20.5bn promised to the NHS in June 2018, but from the £1.5bn fund “that the Treasury has set aside for Brexit contingency planning”.

Hancock first told the committee in October 2018 that the government had put contracts out to tender for suppliers of cold-chain storage, with the possibility that space may be converted to medical storage “which currently isn’t” up to the required standards.

In the latest session in front of the committee, he said the response to the contract tender “has been good”.

He told the committee: “We’ll shortly be concluding that, and that will involve spending the first money in preparation for no-deal, in the low tens of millions [of pounds].

“The exact figure will depend on the response to the invitation to tender and which of the bids we choose.”

In August 2018, the government told community pharmacists not to stockpile drugs because it was working with manufacturers to secure six weeks’ worth of medicines in the event of a no-deal scenario.

Hancock clarified that six-week’s worth of contingency planning “is a cross-government planning assumption”, which is being reviewed “all the time”.

He added: “We have further contingency work on a range of contingencies, should the disruptions go on for longer than that.

“But our planning assumption is that then we’ll need a range of other options, such as prioritisation rather than stockpiling — there’s only so much stockpiling that you can do.”

Hancock told the committee that responding to its recent request for a list of medicines at risk under a no-deal Brexit would be “a challenge” as “the nature of their supply chains and the nature of their contracts is commercially confidential” but committed to providing “as much information on the planning as we think is feasible”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205818

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