Brexit warning: Government urges companies to stockpile medicine for important reason

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The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) wrote a letter to medicine suppliers encouraging them to prioritise stocking their reserves to protect against any disruption that may happen in January. The letter advised the companies to prepare for all scenarios when the UK leaves the Brexit transition period.

It highlighted the concerns around how the coronavirus crisis has caused a dwindling of some medical stocks.

The letter said: “To build upon past work and ensure a co-ordinated approach, we will be asking suppliers to confirm their contingency plans for the end of the transition period, and in particular the balance between stock-holding in the UK, re-routing away from the short straits and readiness for new customs and border arrangements.

“We recognise that global supply chains are under significant pressure, exacerbated by recent events with Covid-19.

“However, we encourage companies to make stockpiling a key part of contingency plans, and ask industry, where possible, to stockpile to a target level of six weeks’ total stock on UK soil.”

The letter outlined the pressure the NHS will be facing this winter.

It said: “The ongoing pandemic, gradual resumption of NHS activity, and seasonal pressures, mean we must prepare thoroughly for the end of the transition period.”

Situations which the companies are advised to prepare for include a reduced traffic flow at short crossings such as between Dover and Folkestone, and Calais and Dunkirk.

The advice told suppliers to re-route away from the short crossings.

It said: “Companies are encouraged to review their own logistics arrangements and consider making plans for avoiding the short straits as a matter of priority.”

The DHSC and the NHS Supply Chain said they have built up a centralised stock build of fast-moving medical devices and clinical consumables for the run up to the end of the transition period.

The DHSC said: “Some of this stock remains and accounting for likely demand trends for the time of year, we plan to build these levels back up to a target level of 6 weeks’ total stock.”

The letter comes as uncertainty mounts around whether the UK and EU can strike a deal before time runs out.

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Michel Barnier, Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator, has said the UK’s position made the prospects of a deal “at this point unlikely” last month.

The trade negotiation sticking points are in regulatory alignment, fisheries, justice and police cooperation.

David Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, has also said “considerable gaps” remained in fishing rights and post-Brexit competition rules.

Speaking after the second round of talks, Mr Barnier said the UK has not shown a “willingness to break the deadlock” over these areas.

He said: “By its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely.”

Mr Barnier said there is a risk of a no deal scenario unless the UK changed course on the topics.

He added how an agreement would be needed by October “at the latest”.

He said this is important so the deal can be ratified before the transition period ends in December.

The next official round of talks is due to take place in Brussels on 17 August.

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