No-deal Brexit: more freight capacity needed for medicines

London, UK: There is a risk of delays to supplies for health and social care if the UK leaves the EU without a deal as more work needs to be done in putting in place sufficient freight capacity to carry priority goods. That is the warning from the National Audit Office (NAO) which has reviewed the Department for Health & Social Care’s (DHSC’s) preparations to make sure the UK has a steady flow of supplies for the health and social care sector when it leaves the EU. The NAO points out that the Department for Transport (DfT)-led procurement of freight capacity is underway but the time available to put capacity in place for 31 October is “extremely limited and it might not now be possible to have all the freight capacity available on that date”.

DfT’s aim is to have as much of the freight capacity for priority goods as possible in place by 31 October, and all of it by 30 November at the latest. The NAO also mentions that the DHSC has started procurement of its own dedicated courier service which can pick up urgent medicines and supplies direct from manufacturers in Europe and deliver them to where they are needed in the UK. This will provide capacity for 50 pallets and an additional 35m3 of urgent or specialist goods to be transported each day.

Despite recent efforts across government, there is a risk that traders, including medicine suppliers, will not be ready for new border processes by 31 October, says the NAO.  

Richard Burnett, chief executive, Road Haulage Association, told Radio 4’s “Today” programme that, with just 24 working days to go, it was going to be a challenge to ensure that medicines get to the UK if a no-deal Brexit goes ahead as businesses are not ready for the customs paperwork involved.

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