A contingency plan designed to protect the NHS’s supply chain in the event of a no-deal Brexit could be enacted in just weeks if MPs reject the Government’s EU withdrawal bill next month.
Chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, confirmed to the health and social care committee that plans would be put in place regarding equipment, logistics and medicines “this side of Christmas” and early in the New Year if a no-deal seems likely.
MPs are due to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan on 11 December and there are concerns that a failure to agree on a deal would see chaos at ports preventing NHS supplies from reaching trusts.
Mr Stevens told the committee that some of the plans would cost “tens of millions of pounds” and would include contracts to take on additional warehousing.
“In my view, the planning has been extensive, but aspects of these plans will need to be given the go ahead this side of Christmas and some early in the New Year,” he said.
“Contingencies that have been drawn up by pharmaceutical and other companies, are pretty well advanced but there are particular instructions that we would need to issue to GPs, NHS hospitals and others.
“Over time the NHS will adjust to any new arrangement, but in terms of transitions, there are a set of decisions that need to be made this side of, or very shortly after, Christmas to mitigate some of the ongoing issues we’ve discussed.”
Most of the concern around interruption to the NHS’s supply chain surrounds medicines however there is also worry that disruption in ports could lead to trusts being without important equipment.
Social care secretary, Matt Hancock, told the committee that “if everyone does what they need to do” then the supply chain can be guaranteed.
He added that “reasonable amounts of money” could be spent to avert a worst-case-scenario if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Image: Chief executive Of NHS England, Simon Stevens. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images