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

 “You’re through to the Department of Health and Social Care’s national supply disruption response.

“Press 1 for help with your medicines stuck in Calais. Press 2 for help with your truck drivers’ paperwork to enter the UK, Press 3 to buy a ticket for the department’s special shipping route from Vlaardingen to Immingham. Press 4 for the location of our secret Belgian logistics hub. Press 5 to hear the latest results of indicative votes in the UK Parliament. Press 6 for all other enquiries….

“You are number 3,329 in the queue – your call is important to us…”

OK, HSJ may have slightly pre-empted how the new Brexit hotline for NHS suppliers is going to work, and we hope the above scenario does not become a reality.

The establishment of the call centre, which will operate 24/7, is the latest detail to be revealed of the DHSC’s no-deal Brexit planning.

In a letter to suppliers, the DHSC’s chief commercial officer Steve Oldfield urges companies to report any supply issues stemming from the UK leaving the EU without a deal “at the earliest opportunity”.

It is planned that the call centre will triage callers to the relevant section of the DHSC’s response team, which will offer “logistics troubleshooting”.

Suppliers are also asked to share any “direct communication” they are having with care providers and patients, which sounds rather like an attempt by the government to control the amount of information available to the public.

The response team also wants to know of supply risks that are not caused by a no-deal Brexit, such as materials shortages, regulatory challenges, or quality problems.

Mr Oldfield stresses the DHSC will respect the commercial sensitivity of any information reported. However, should the above play out, the centre will be left with a lot more detailed information about NHS suppliers which may not be easy – or advantageous – to forget.

Brine exits

A mere four months after Steve Barclay left the DHSC, Brexit has caused the departure of another health minister.

Steve Brine, whose portfolio included primary care and public health, resigned this week so that he could vote against the government on the Letwin amendment.

The amendment allowed MPs to bring forward eight indicative votes on Brexit. These subsequently failed to find a majority for any of the options. More indicative votes are expected next week.

Under strain

Brexit was also cited this week as a factor in the rise of generic drugs being sold above national tariff, which is putting an extra burden on clinical commissioning groups.

Mike Dent, pharmacy funding director at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said “uncertainty around Brexit” could be exacerbating the issues causing drug shortages.