HSJ brings you an end-of-week fix of Brexit roundup health news.

The breadth of Brexit worries was driven home this week, with stories ranging from aeroplanes and plastic gloves to donor organs.

Matt Hancock has finally announced a deal to increase airplane capacity to bring in short shelf-life drugs and medical devices. Welcome news for trusts… except the part about them potentially being landed with the cost. 

The Royal College of Radiologists said in a meeting with officials about radioisotypes – used to treat and diagnose cancer – that an “increased medicines bill” may result from airfreighting in this short-life product. The official could not comment on whether funding will be made available to help hospitals manage extra costs.

HSJ asked the Department of Health and Social Care if this price increase would apply to all drugs and devices brought in by air but it did not respond to the question.

Piling stocks

We are also seeing the impact of stockpiling on current stock levels. While the government continues to plea with patients not to stockpile drugs (while at the same time refusing to guarantee uninterrupted supply), it’s non-medical NHS products that are starting to feel the strain.

An unforeseen surge in demand of examination gloves have caused “stock shortages” at their main supplier. DHSC, however, said there is “no evidence” the shortage is linked to Brexit.

Exchange programme

NHS Blood and Transplant, the body responsible for coordinating blood and organ supplies in the UK, has revealed it is battling against the clock to ensure the UK will remain part of a European organ exchange programme in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Currently, organs donated in the UK are first offered to NHS patients. If they are not a match for anyone within the UK, they can be offered to patients living in European countries. The UK benefits from a reciprocal arrangement.

Last year, 22 UK residents received transplants from EU and Ireland donors, and 19 EU patients received transplants from UK donors. While this is a fraction of the 4,039 transplants that took place in the UK over the same time period, people on the transplant list can wait years for a suitable donor organ to become available. 

An NHSBT spokesman said it “anticipate[s] the successful professional arrangements currently in place will continue” in the event we leave the EU without a deal. 

It is no surprise then that health leaders have signed a letter calling on the prime minister to prevent a no-deal Brexit, warning it presented a grave risk to public health.

The letter had 75 signatories, including former NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Helen Stokes-Lampard, and chair of the Tavistock and Portman Foundation Trust and former health minister Paul Burstow.