NHS organisations have been warned against stockpiling vaccines in the wake of the UK’s exit from the EU and told that any “over ordering” will be “investigated”.

The warning is included as part of a communication from NHS England’s strategic incident director for EU Exit Professor Keith Willett.

Professor Willett is also the strategic incident director for covid-19 and NHSE’s national director for emergency planning and incident response.

Professor Willett’s letter is addressed to the leaders of all NHS regional and local organisations and seeks to clarify how the supplies which the NHS sources from the EU will be affected by the UK’s departure from the union today.

He writes that “the continuity of supply preparations undertaken by [the Department of Health and Social Care] will remain in place as they are required to help mitigate against potential disruptions caused by new customs and border processes.”

Professor Willett asks NHS organisations to “keep in place the plans and mitigations stood up for the end of the Transition Period until further notice.”

An accompanying document includes a section on vaccine supply.

NHS organisations are told: “Don’t stockpile vaccines beyond BAU levels” and that “over ordering will be investigated”.

Pharmacists and emergency planning staff are advised to “meet at a local level to discuss and agree local contingency and collaboration agreements”, while “local cross-system medicines supply continuity plans should be developed and agreed at trust/CCG board level, including arrangements for collaboration to ensure shortages of locally procured vaccines are dealt with promptly.”

The document reveals that “there will be a Vaccines Shortage Response Group for nationally and locally procured vaccines, co-ordinated by PHE with NHS England and NHS Improvement, and with membership from the Devolved Administrations. The group will provide clear governance, communication and decision-making for the management of any vaccine shortages.”

The document stresses that “any COVID-19 vaccine” will “be covered by the express freight capacity if needed.”

The message is repeated in relation to medicines, with doctors and pharmacists told to “prescribe and dispense as normal” and that “prescription durations will be monitored and investigated where necessary.”

On medical device supply, the document warns: “If your organisation relies on getting products and services direct from the EU on a short lead time basis (ie 24 to 72 hours), plan for lead times of around three days or longer and adjust your ordering processes accordingly.” It adds that all staff should be “aware of changes to delivery lead times” and that “business continuity plans are adjusted accordingly.”