• Matt Hancock has warned hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies will be “investigated” for stockpiling medicines locally
  • He asked pharmaceutical suppliers to have “plans in place to air freight” short shelf-life medicines
  • Confirms pharmaceutical suppliers will be asked to stockpile an “additional six weeks” of medicines

NHS organisations should not spend money on “unnecessary” local stockpiling of medicine ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit.

In a letter to the NHS, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said organisations will be “investigated” for any attempts to pool medications locally.

He said hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies must not “stockpile additional medicines” warning: ”any incidences involving the over ordering of medicines will be investigated and followed up with the relevant chief or responsible pharmacist directly.”

His comments follow fears that local stockpiling could result in a drug prices “shooting up”, as well as generating unnecessary spending by NHS organisations.

The letter also confirmed reports that pharmaceutical suppliers will be asked to stockpile an “additional six weeks supply of medicines in the UK on top of their own normal stock levels”. It said this request is “subject to revision in light of future developments”. This will not cover over the counter medicine.

Mr Hancock said clinicians should not write “longer prescriptions” than normal and they should reassure patients the government has plans in place to continue medical supplies from the “moment we leave the EU”.

Different suppliers currently hold different volumes of medication – the largest with around 10 weeks, but smaller firms are thought to hold about one to two weeks’ worth.

The letter was released at the same time as 25 papers on no-deal Brexit contingency plans were published.

In a separate letter to pharmaceutical companies, Mr Hancock asked suppliers to “ensure they have plans in place to air freight” medicines with a short shelf life. 

It is not clear if the government will help suppliers pay for the cost of airlifting these drugs with the letter saying only that ministers would ”consider” how the department could support suppliers to make arrangements.

In a third letter to medical suppliers, the health and social care secretary confirmed stocks of medical devices, such as syringes and needles, will be increased. The government will contact suppliers next month.

HSJ has previously reported that the government was likely to cover the additional costs of warehousing both drugs and supplies. The information released today does not mention costs but said contingency plans developed with the NHS Supply Chain organisation “will be able to accommodate and manage these increased volumes.”

It is understood that 90 per cent of firms that manufacture these devices are small or medium sized businesses and may struggle to cover the costs of stockpiling.

Other no deal Brexit papers published today confirmed the government will accept medicines into the UK that have passed safety tests in Europe without those tests being repeated in the UK. In a speech earlier today Dominic Raab, secretary of state for exiting the European Union, said he “can’t guarantee” the EU will reciprocate.

The papers also revealed the government will

  • Consult on its approach to rare disease and paediatric medicines, including “incentives to encourage such medicines onto the UK market”
  • Consult on legislative changes to allow the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to take over as regulator of UK medicines
  • Build a “national portal” by March 2019 to allow companies to submit regulatory information on medical products