• CCGs raise concerns that patients may start stockpiling medication
  • Brexit could affect savings plans and ability to break-even, commissioners warn

Multiple clinical commissioning groups have raised concerns that patients will start stockpiling medicines and costs will rise if a Brexit deal is not confirmed soon.

One commissioner has also complained of a “lack of clarity and national direction” on the issue.

Redditch and Bromsgrove, South Worcestershire, and Wyre Forest CCGs, which have a shared management team, have raised concerns that “patients will be stockpiling medication in the near future which could result in depleted stocks quite quickly”.

In joint September board papers, the CCGs said they had raised the issue with NHS England to “explore what can be done on a local basis to be prepared for the reality of Brexit”.

Meanwhile, Lambeth CCG’s board papers for October said Brexit “may lead to instability of prices and over-ordering of medicines by the public” in the last three months of 2018-19.

NHS England did not comment on what local advice, if any, it had given to Redditch, South Worcestershire and Wyre Forest CCGs.

Neither would it say whether any contingency funds will be established to help CCGs if their finances worsen because of Brexit, as many CCGs now fear.

In separate November board papers, South Warwickshire, Lewisham, and Herts Valley CCGs also raised concerns Brexit could raise their spending on medication.

Lewisham CCG’s papers said: “Fears of Brexit impact on medication availability… could lead to overspending on medicine… patient safety implications of medicines shortages; delays in supply and shortages of particular/specific medicines.”

It said there were “limited controls in place [and a] lack of clarity and national direction”.

Herts Valley CCG said a no-deal Brexit scenario could affect its “continuity” of medical supplies and put at “risk” its “achievement of the statutory duty for financial break-even”.

South Warwickshire CCG said the “potential effects of Brexit on the continuity of availability of some drugs… has the potential to increase costs”.

Last week, Simon Stevens told the Commons’ health and social care committee he would begin no-deal Brexit plans before Christmas if Parliament hadn’t approved the draft withdrawal agreement by then.

The NHS England chief executive said: “Frankly, this side of Christmas, were we to be in a no-deal scenario, some of those [NHS England] plans will have to be enacted.”

He added these would include “decisions… which would mitigate some of the supply chain issues already discussed” plus issuing “practical instructions…[to] GPs, NHS hospitals and others”.

NHS England said responsibility for the continuity of medical supplies lay with the Department of Health and Social Care.

A department spokesman said: “As we have made clear, frontline services should maintain existing practices, and patients should not stockpile medicines.”

In the same committee hearing, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said other options would be put in place if the planned six weeks’ worth of nationally stockpiled medication, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, was not enough.

He said this could include “prioritisation” of drugs, but it was not clear if this meant limiting the volume of drugs a single patient could order or ensuring drugs cleared the UK border ahead of other imported goods.