HSJ brings you an end-of-week fix of Brexit roundup health news.
The government is sticking firmly to its official line that its much-battered withdrawal agreement is still likely to happen – but it ramped up no-deal Brexit plans this week regardless.
With just over a month to go until the UK leaves the EU, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced it has established a logistics hub in Belgium and also plans to manage its own dedicated shipping route.
The plans were outlined in two letters to suppliers and the pharmaceutical industry from DHSC’s chief commercial officer Steve Oldfield.
It said the Belgium hub will be the start point from where certain products can be shipped across the Channel to the UK.
The aim is to assure trusts that medical devices such as stents and implants, which are delivered in small quantities at very high frequencies, will be with them within three days of arriving at the hub.
Alongside this, DHSC is selling ferry tickets to drug companies which want to use space the government has booked on ferries to the cost of £88.8m. The seven routes earmarked all avoid Dover, where significant backlogs are expected.
The news comes after the disastrous collapse of a government contract with a ferry operator that had no ferries (but did have a pizza company’s terms and conditions).
DHSC also announced that DHL Supply Chain, Movianto UK Ltd. and lloga UK Ltd have secured the additional warehousing capacity contract Matt Hancock has been discussing for months.
But, while the post-Brexit supply of medical devices may now have been addressed, the Royal College of Radiology said it is yet to be assured that vital medical isotopes supplies, used for cancer diagnosis and treatment, will continue undisrupted come 30 March.
It told HSJ that trusts “will have no choice” but to prioritise which patients receive cancer treatments if imports are disrupted.
The radioisotopes cannot be stockpiled as the material decays too quickly, so providers that use them are relying on helicopters or planes to bring them in.
The RCR said despite being in talks with DHSC for 18 months, it is yet to see “any finite logistical detail” of the increased air freight capacity needed to secure supplies.
Nor has it seen the “detail of the customs paperwork” that would allow the materials to gain fast-track entry into the UK.
Expect to hear much more from the RCR if its next round of talks with the government, which are scheduled before the end of the month, do not guarantee an uninterrupted supply.