The Government has agreed the terms of our exit from the European Union, as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement. The Withdrawal Agreement offers a time-limited implementation period that provides a bridge to the future relationship, allowing business, including the life sciences industry, to continue trading as now until the end of 2020. The supply of medicines and medical supplies would remain unchanged during the implementation period.
As a responsible Government, however, we continue to prepare proportionately for all scenarios, including the unlikely outcome that we leave the EU without any deal in March 2019.
On 23 August 2018, the Department wrote to pharmaceutical companies that supply prescription-only and pharmacy medicines for National Health Service patients from, or via, the EU or European Economic Area asking them, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to ensure they have a minimum of six weeks additional supply in the United Kingdom, over and above their business as usual operational buffer stocks, by 29 March 2019.
Our contingency plan relies on stockpiling at the supplier or pre-wholesaler level. It could undermine the plan if the NHS stockpiles at the local level that could lead to shortages before 29 March 2019. Therefore, on the same day, the Department wrote a separate letter to the NHS informing them of the contingency plans with industry and stressing the need for frontline services to maintain existing practices, and that hospitals, general practitioners and community pharmacies throughout the UK do not need to take any steps to stockpile additional medicines, beyond their business-as-usual stock levels, nor do clinicians need to write longer NHS prescriptions.
To date the only costs which the Government has agreed to incur relate to the provision of additional warehouse space to store stockpiled medicines and are in the low tens of millions pounds.