Leak shows ministers may order rationing of medicines and altering of prescriptions in a no-deal Brexit

A selection of prescription medication
Afroze Zaidi-Jivraj

According to a leaked document, ministers could instruct pharmacists to override GP prescriptions in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The government’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has reportedly discussed implementing the measures in case of a medicine shortage.

According to an article published by the Times on 7 December, details of the discussion came to light via a leaked consultation document. This reportedly contains government plans to avoid a shortfall in medicine supplies post-Brexit. The article goes on to say:

Pharmaceutical companies that ship to the UK via the European Economic Area have been asked to stockpile six weeks of additional supply in the UK so that hospitals and pharmacies do not have to build up supplies.

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On a BBC Radio 4 programme the same day, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government wanted to ensure that “if there’s a shortage of individual drugs, pharmacists can make clinical and professional judgements”.

A DHSC spokesperson said:

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We are consulting on the introduction of a strict protocol, which would be developed in collaboration with doctors, to allow our highly-trained pharmacists to provide an appropriate alternative should there be a shortage of certain types of medicines. This is a sensible approach that should reduce the time taken for alternatives to be provided to patients.

The medical community

There has been some concern in the medical community regarding these discussions. The chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) GP Committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, said:

The BMA believes that Brexit will have a severe impact on the supply of medicines and the overall delivery of healthcare in the UK and we should have far more time to adequately consider the Government’s proposals for change.

He went on to say that “it’s only right that doctors should have their say over these proposed changes”.

Speaking to The Canary, Dr Richard Fieldhouse – chair of the National Association for Sessional GPs (NASGP) – said:

As GPs, it is our job to give holistic care. The context of the patient, previous history, other drugs they have been on, and there’s also trust – all of which are very important for the doctor-patient relationship. Pharmacists being allowed to change prescriptions could very much undermine what we do as GPs. These measures may provide savings in the short term, but we need to fix the system – not destroy it with Brexit in the first place.

Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has said:

These proposals set out in stark terms the consequences of a no-deal Brexit on patients and the NHS. If these plans were ever implemented they would represent an astonishing power grab by government ministers with some healthcare decisions being decided in Whitehall rather than the GP surgery.

Featured image via Flickr/Ryan Adams

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  • Show Comments
    1. It’s already known there will be a shortage of insulin – by around 42% – by 2020 Leaving the UK means that the UK has no certified (ie prescribable) source of insulin, since Tory economic policies have driven UK producers out of business… it’s only made abroad now.

      So where’s Tristram *unt going to source it from? Nigeria, the famous pharmaceutical world hub??

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